This week in our family we’ve been exploring the whole notion behind gift-giving. Would it “feel like” Christmas without gifts? Why do we give gifts? What about many who cannot afford gifts or do not have that as part of their tradition… are they able to have a happy Christmas?
It’s been refreshing to listen to our kids give their always-more-intellectual-than adults-without-even-trying perspective! After about age 5 I don’t think kids need parents. At that point I think it switches and it’s the parents who need the kids. Our kids teach me so much about what is good and right just by the simplicity of their logic. They give answers like… “of course it would still be Christmas, because Christmas isn’t about any of that stuff.”
So what kind of gift — besides the one in the picture — could possibly be guaranteed to make one stronger? The gift of a genuine understanding of what “real Christmas” is all about. I don’t just mean the story of Jesus and the manger.
We’ve talked about (I’m not sure how our follow-through will look) only exchanging one gift with each other just to prove the point (without being legalistic scrooges) that it’s not about that stuff. And maybe that’s the best gift. To understand that this former holy-day has become a holiday (European-style). Just another meaningless vacation day.
There are so many angles to this discussion. In case you’ve been trapped in colonial Williamsburg for the last few centuries, you are well aware that Americans have a severe problem with over-indulgence. Extravagance is the mark of success. Don’t believe me? Take this test. Take a field trip to any Corporate America shopping compound (Wal*Mart, Target or the like). Plan to take no currency and make no purchases. Just bring a pad of paper and a pen. Walk up and down each aisle and guestimate the total value of all the products in 3 randomly selected aisles… make sure they are widely representative of all product sold (the high and lower ends). Then average those three estimated totals together, count the total # of aisles in the store and multiply by the number found by your estimated average. It should only take 20-30 minutes and the results should sufficiently shock and embarrass you.
Consider that millions of Americans will go thousands of dollars beyond what they can afford to spend this holiday season. For more information and some practical helps, cut and paste the following article – http://home.hamptonroads.com/stories/story.cfm?story=96071&ran=88134.
So that’s one angle… but up to this point we’ve talked about financial excess only. Is it possible to also miss the theological point of Christmas by a “spiritual misappropriation?” I think so. Can we so know the details of “THE STORY” that we completely miss what the story was meant to do in us? Absolutely. After all when the story of Jesus is reduced to quippy “reason for the season” musings, the very power of the gospel is reduced to… just warm & fuzzy news.
So what of the Jesus part? How do we keep this aspect of Christmas genuine and balanced in these times of craziness. I am calling for all of us to think through ways of simplifying the season so we will be more readily able to understand its full meaning. These are some personal disciplines that I am attempting to inject into my understanding and celebration this season:
- say “yes” to less… if someone gets uptight because I have to say no to attending their party, they probably wouldn’t understand if I tried to explain
- take a soul field trip… like the financial exercise above, do the same thing spiritually. How much of what Christmas is has been reduced to objects or days on a calendar or… or… or…?
- touch the season so the season can touch you… God sent Jesus to relate to every one of us humanly. Let that sink in. Wrestle with it. Live with it. Allow who He is to change the way you live and think and treat people. As this happens, Christmas will be much more than a season. It will become a way of life.