“Oh,” replied my colleague, a fundamental Christian who frequently closes her emails to me with the phrase “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen, “we do Christmas a little differently in our family. We don’t give traditional gifts to each other, instead we take the money we would have used to purchase gifts and we give it to those in need, places where our money can really make a difference. Did you know that $35 can give five ducks to a family in the Philippines?” she concluded. (http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=11080)
“Oh,” I responded lamely. “Cool.” It was the end of the conversation for us but the beginning of a lot of thoughts for me.
At first I was a bit taken back. Am I a bad Christian because I give presents to my friends and neighbors? If I really loved my neighbor, in the global sense that Christ taught, would I sacrifice our gift giving ritual and send money to countries and people much needier than ours? Am I so caught up in the commercialism of Christmas that I have lost Christmas’ true meaning? Tanah does not really need the ------ I bought her and Miles can certainly live without a Green Bay Packers Cheese Head Hat (though he claims he cannot). Hum…… thinking………..thinking…………thinking…………..
Am I a bad Christian? My answer to my first question is no. Pondering our gift giving ritual brought me to the conclusion that giving gifts brings me joy. It brings me joy because I love those to whom I give gifts. I am not a bad Christian because love motivates my gift giving and love is not bad. Perhaps I would be a better Christian if I gave to impoverished people abroad (and perhaps not…it is much easier to love people who are far away than it is to love those with whom we associate; far away people tend to be much less annoying) but my gift giving is not bad.
My musings lead to thoughts about the true meaning of Christmas. Often I hear expressed the wish that people would feel the true Spirit of Christmas all year long. If only, goes the lament, people would act during the non-December months as they do at Christmas time. Undergirding the expression and lamentation is the assumption that people do NOT feel the true Spirit of Christmas all year long. I submit that exactly the opposite is true. I believe it is precisely because people feel the true Spirit of Christmas all year long that they act as they do at Christmas time.
Because I love my neighbor all year long, I give her zucchini bread in December. Because I love those with whom I work, I give them goodies before the Christmas break. Because I love my friend, I search for something to give her for Christmas that is truly meaningful. Because I love my sister, I try to torture her by sending her a Christmas gift in October. (Failed this year. Sorry Marjorie!!!) Because I love my husband all year long, I want to give him something super special at Christmas time. The love that I feel during the year fuels my charitable acts at Christmas time. Christmas is the catalyst that focuses my love and it is the event that gives me the opportunity to express it. Love, the true meaning of Christmas, is the reason for my actions during the season.
And I do love Christmas time. I love writing notes in Christmas cards because, at least for that brief moment in my often-too-frenetic life, I share a moment with the card recipient and re-live a memory or two. I love feeling the peace that fourteen nativity scenes bring to our living room. I love seeing the glow of our Christmas tree lights and the reflection of glowing lights on the upright piano. I love that our children have contests to see who can land a golden-bead lasso around the neck of the angel that tops our tree and that they sleep under the Christmas tree every night. I love listening to Christmas music on the radio and listening to our children sing Christmas songs on the way home from Grandma’s Christmas party. I love the focus on Christ that Christmas brings, the reminder that all good things come from Him.
I love Christ. I love Christmas. And I love you……all year long!!!!!!