Days 19, 20 and 21: What IS the Real Meaing of Christmas?

Presents, Presents, Presents!

1 Peter 4:10
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

As once again I find myself behind in posting, I am choosing to use these three days to speak out about presents and gifts.  Partially responsible for the insanity of the season, gifts take us through many journeys this time of year.  We go from store to store looking for just the perfect gifts to give to those awesome people in our lives.  Then of course we have the lists of “have to get gifts” which sometimes leads to temporary insanity because we are at a loss as to what to get.  When we feel obligated to buy for certain people just because they are on a list, the presents lose their value.  And of course what about those who just want a few things and are very difficult to buy for?

Every year we spend more and more time and money getting just the right items for people.  We want to make things bigger and better than the year before.  We did this with our two children.  As we struggled under our circumstances, we never did much for our children throughout the year so we felt like we had to make up for it on Christmas.  We spent our bonuses and our last paychecks before Christmas going all out so there would be a spectacular display on Christmas morning only to have Santa Claus get all the glory and be broke for months afterwards.  We would spend hours wrapping and taping and usually ended up getting into an argument which led to me wrapping by myself and laying my head on the pillow just as the first kid was getting up in excitement.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Christmas.  The look of amazement on the faces of my children just made me all warm and fuzzy inside. We always had cinnamon rolls right out of the oven for breakfast and then we started the unwrapping one by one only for it to be over in a matter of less than a half hours time.  I still to this day feel like I can never get enough for my kids yet I have come to realization that they never loved us for the gifts and more than anything they probably just wanted our time and love.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that we cannot make up love with gifts.  Getting things for people is fun when it is done out of love not obligation.  We spent money trying to make up for the lack of the year only to find our children losing interest quickly in the “gotta have it” toys as they moved quickly on to the “next best thing” and they began to look forward to their birthdays.  Christmas in our house was about the magic of Santa and the pursuit of temporary happiness while in the background we were losing out on so much more.  My kids would have been happier with us spending time playing family games or reading books but because we felt guilty from not getting them things during the year, we over compensated.

This year as I am getting back to the basics, I told my now teenage children, there was not going to be much as finances were truly tight.  This year there is no bonus and it’s just me and things are tight.  I told the kids I would only be getting a few things and you know what? They are okay with that.  It isn’t always about getting material things, sometimes it is just knowing there is love involved and that you have not forgotten about them that matters the most.  I do not have many to buy for this year and I am choosing not to put myself into debt over gifts and presents.  Sometimes the greatest gifts are in what we can give when we least expect it, something we did even have to plan.  Let me give you an example from a recent event in my life.

My daughter and I were eating a a nearby restaurant and this young family wandered in as they were waiting for the city bus.  As they were coming into the building we overheard someone talking about them and judging purely based on just their appearances.  It was a set of young parents walking with a little bundle of joy in a stroller in Michigan in the cold.  The mom had to finish her cigarette before coming into the restaurant and this seemed to bother the people behind us. As I tried to ignore the ramblings of this group of people, I felt God laying on my heart to give this family some money as they looked to be in need.  Funny part is that someone had blessed me just that very morning and I was rather tickled that God wanted me to bless this family.

I took a money from my wallet and wrapped in this paper I had received recently from a visit to a live nativity that said, “Your debt has been paid in full, Jesus paid the price” and I walked over and told them this might seem strange but I felt they needed this. I handed them the gift I had for them and walked out the door telling them to have a Merry Christmas.  While we were driving away I prayed for the little family and my daughter could see them sitting in the lobby and told me that she thought the mom was crying.  With tears in my eyes I continued to pray.  I knew in my heart, that I was honoring God in that very moment.  I knew He provides for those who love Him and He will make a way for this family.  I also was reminded that in my deepest times of trouble during the holidays I was always grateful when God sent strangers into my life to help.

So this year as I have minimized the craziness of the Christmas season and am discovering what it really means, I am seeing that gift giving is a powerful way to connect others to the real reason, we have just taken it too far.  I encourage you to look at your Christmas list and evaluate it with the perspective of:  Are you really giving out of love?  Perhaps you too give out of guilt like we did for years.  Maybe some of the people on the list are just out of obligation.  Whatever the reason is for your giving, I pray God will show you His way of giving gifts and usually those are very unexpected.


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