When I stop and think back to Christmas growing up I must admit that there are not very many memories. My memory is not great in the first place, so anyone who knows me would not be highly surprised about this, but what I do remember has nothing to do with gifts at all. There is actually only one occasion where I even remember a gift and that was when I received an E.T. poster and VHS. All the rest of my memories about Christmas are entirely based around the stuff that we did.
My most vivid childhood memory about Christmas is actually about the time surrounding the opening of presents and not on the presents at all. We would always go to our church’s evening service on Christmas Eve and before we went we would prepare cookies and snacks and things to munch on while we went around and opened presents. I’m not really sure why these things stick out to me, but they are far more vivid memories than of anything else.
When I think about presents I actually remember more about a lack of excitement than anything. Even though I often got the very things that I wanted I always wanted more. I guess that’s just the selfishness in me that is present in mankind, but I was never content with what I had. Even if I had gotten everything that I had wanted there would have been something more that I wanted once those desires were filled.
Do you have any of these same memories? What things do you remember most about Christmas? Do you have any Christmas traditions?
Now that I am older and have a family of my own my memories are still the same. Sure there are things that I want and am happy to receive, but they never leave me fulfilled. The things that truly stick out are the things that we do as a family. One of the greatest memories so far happened just a couple of years ago when we got to help provide a meal to those in the community who were either alone or in need. Other memories include renting out a house in between our families so that we could enjoy Christmas together.
My point is this…if Christmas is about gifts then you might as well just call it a holiday, because Christ was not born so that we could focus on getting gifts. He was born with the purpose of teaching us God’s ways and to be a sacrifice ushering in the New Covenant so that whoever would believe in Him and follow Him would receive everlasting life. He came so that we could have a full life in Him, but that requires us to be focused on gratitude and giving.
I have received both inexpensive and expensive gifts and they do not mean as much to me as the memories of love and togetherness. Christmas is so commercialized and filled with guilt that we often feel that we have to get everyone a gift or we have to spend so much money in order to be a good friend, parent, child, etc., but that’s not Christmas at all. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and the newness and fullness of life that we have in Him. That does not mean that gifts need to be ignored, but it does mean that we need to re-evaluate our motives.
If we feel like we have to buy gifts for everyone then we are missing the point, especially if we cannot afford to be doing so. A gift is something that is freely given, not out of necessity, but out of joy and love. Your personal feeling of guilt that you feel about not having given a good enough gift or about not having given someone a gift who gave you one is not a gift and it is certainly not what Christmas is about. If someone is making you feel guilty about not getting them a gift or about not getting them a certain gift then they don’t deserve one at all, that goes for our children as well. None of us deserve to be given a gift from anyone and if we feel like we do then we need to check ourselves and our level of contentment.
Experiencing joy around Christmas means getting rid of all the noise of the things that surround Christmas to include buying presents and going to parties and gathers. Experiencing joy around Christmas means focusing on gratitude, contentment, and love because of the greatest gift that has ever been given, God’s Son. No gift made by human hands will ever give anyone everlasting joy, because we live in a world that is only here for a moment and then it will be gone, but in Christ we have the joy of knowing that we will have everlasting life and that we can live this life to the fullest until the day comes when we get to leave our earthly bodies behind and that is a Christmas to remember!