Before I begin this post, let me just say that I LOVE Christmas!! I love the joy and the hope and the promise and the peace. I love that we celebrate salvation. But I don’t love the commercial nature of Christmas–the shop til you drop don’t worry about the cost you’ve got all year to pay it off race to the finish with the biggest and best gift ever culture we’ve created. So, before we rush from the dinner table to the department store this Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to stop and reflect on the true purpose of gifting during this Christmas season. This is a post from a year ago, but, I still believe in it.
“For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger….Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace, Good will to all men.”
Luke 2:11-12, 14
It was late September when my kindergartner brought home the fall fundraising catalog for school. Browsing through the plethora of cheap holiday “gifts”, my eye caught on the bright and festive wrapping paper section. Looking at the multi-sized and multi-colored boxes so artfully positioned around the page, I said to my husband, “I want to have a big Christmas this year, with lots of presents for the boys to unwrap.”
Looking up from the allure of the bright and shiny packages, I rewound my brain. Did I really just say that? Whose birthday are we celebrating at Christmas anyway? Oh right, JESUS’!!
Before the holiday commercial frenzy sets upon us once again, I thought it would be appropriate to remind myself, and anyone else who might read this, that the love of God entering into the world through Jesus Christ cannot be contained by a beautifully wrapped box parked under a festooned tree, no matter how many lights the tree holds. (At our house, it’s usually between 800-900.)
This season, I want to challenge us to give gifts to others that come from the abundance of God’s love and grace, rather than the holiday clearance sale at the department store. Before we plunk down money on a gift for someone, let’s ask ourselves two questions:
1. Does this gift reflect and honor the love of God that we are supposed to be celebrating this season?
2. Does this gift truly express the feelings of love, friendship, gratitude or appreciation I might have for this person?
And just a quick hint, dropping a bunch of money down on something shiny doesn’t necessarily make the item a gift of love, or, an expression of God’s love. Don’t get me wrong. I like jewelry as much as the next woman, but it’s not a gift I would value as much as, per say, a fun experience with my family.
In our society, most of us already have an abundance of “stuff” crowding out the living spaces in our homes. Instead of adding to that, let’s use this Christmas season as a time to bring God’s love into the world, which was the point of the holiday in the first place. Think about alternative gift giving. Here are some ideas:
1. Instead of getting your child’s teacher another coffee mug or kitchy item, make a donation of classroom supplies. Get them a gift card to an educational supply store. Volunteer to cover recess duty for a week.
2. Instead of buying random gift items for extended family members, make a donation to their favorite charity on their behalf. Better yet, make one large donation in honor of the entire family to your favorite charity and, by doing so, educate others about the good work that charity does.
3. Write notes of gratitude to your co-workers and deliver them with a loaf of homemade bread. Or, get together with your co-workers and use the money you would spend on one another to adopt a family in your area. Or, even better, adopt one of your co-workers and their family if they are in need.
4. Scale back the money you spend on your children’s Christmas. Instead of piling oodles of stuff under the tree, pick one nice gift you know they would really value and appreciate and leave it at that. Then, take your children shopping to pick out clothes and presents for other children in need. Let them wrap the gifts and help you deliver them to whatever organization you’re working through.
5. For your spouse, make a date and spend some quality time together. Make them a photo collage of the past year’s events that they can take with them to display at work. Engage with them in one of their favorite activities.
The list could go on and on. The point is, this holiday season let’s make an effort to think outside of the box—literally. Let’s reclaim Christmas by focusing our efforts on bringing Christ into the world, showing his love both to strangers and those dearest to us. Give Christ this Christmas. Give His Love. It’s brighter and shinier and bigger than any package to be found under a tree.
Blessings and Peace,