I love Christmas. It is really important to me. Not unlike a baton, it’s full of traditions that remind us of who we are and where we came from, and it’s meant to be passed on to generations that follow. I have such fond memories of Christmas Eve with my cousins – the cream cheese dip, the popcorn balls, the kids table at dinner, the olives on the tips of our fingers (OK…so we had whacky traditions) and especially midnight Christmas Eve services. That’s why I want to take good care of Christmas here in my home so that my children can pass those traditions and memories that they choose to cherish, along with new ones they make in their own homes on to my grand kids. That might be why I love to decorate our house in a festive way (10 Christmas boxes in the shed….really Kris?) and put up garland and hang lights on my tree.
Christmas day is right around the corner and the traditions are in full swing in the Glass house and I’m quite the busy bee. As usual, Christmas music started playing in our home in mid-November (ummm…well really it started in late October but I don’t want you “early Christmas” haters to judge me), the tree was bought, lights and décor went up the first week of December, the baking has begun, and the finding or making of gifts for friends and family becomes my quest as I hurry and scurry to make sure I have all my bases covered.
I can remember Christmases growing up in Southern California when I was a little girl, where I would arrange all my gifts neatly into a pile on my bed after all the presents were opened. It was always a smaller pile than I had hoped (that’s cuz I was a selfish little girl always looking for affirmation through gifts) but it was mine nonetheless. Christmas, in spite of the joy and excitement, was always a little bit of a disappointment when it was over because the gifts ran out. Once that last gift was opened then there was nothing left of the excitement of Christmas. Maybe, just maybe, my young heart was focusing on the wrong things?
Not everyone loves the whole gift giving schtick. Some (who shall remain nameless) have become cynical about all the gift giving because of all the over-commercialization of Christmas. But as always, there is truth hidden in the bright lights and colorful boxes and the crowds of shoppers at the mall. Me…I get a charge out of the crowds and the traffic at the mall. It’s part of the experience. But I realize not everyone has my whacky sense of adventure. And where did all this gift-giving come from anyway? Was it an evil plot of Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Wards in the 40’s? Or is God really hidden somewhere in all these traditions? Well, He did give us the most perfect gift for all seasons – the gift that brought light to the world and forgiveness of sins. But it doesn’t stop there. His is a gift that keeps on giving. It keeps on giving because His life is born in all who believe, and His presence in the world is re-gifted by the spiritual gifts that He gives all believers and by which we use (or should be using) to reach out to those around us.
A favorite author of mine, John Fischer wrote, “Think about it – there’s a big beautifully wrapped box that arrives for each one of us from God Himself – a personal gift with our name on it. Inside is a special gifting through which we can touch the people around us by way of the words we say and the things we do. It’s called our “spiritual gift” but it’s really a kind of gifting which enables us to do something for someone else. This puts a whole new slant on gifts, whatever the season.”
The cool thing about God’s gift to us is that it helps us become selfless receivers and selfless givers. This is part of the scandalous grace I’m learning about. His gift enables us to turn around and enrich others. And God’s gift to us is just as attractive as the packages hidden under my brightly lit tree. They come wrapped in mercy, faith, encouragement, wisdom, knowledge, healing and discernment and they flow out of the brightly colored packages we unwrap every day from our Father. These are not gifts we pile up on our bed and admire. These are gifts that reflect the life of Christ in us….kind of like the bright lights on our tree and the packages underneath it. And they keep on giving for the rest of our lives, as long as we use them, even after the bright lights of Christmas burn out and the wrapping paper on the living room floor has been taken out to the dumpster.
This holiday season I’m going to try to share truth and be a bright light to those around me. I’m going to think about giving gifts that will warm someone’s heart. Gifts that come from my heart and that keep giving all year long. Patience. Time. Attention. Trust. Love. Forgiveness. Grace. And I’m going to be just as intentional about gracefully receiving those as well.
Happy gift giving and receiving!