Consider this good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it; it’s only 355 days until Christmas! We are almost two weeks removed from the most anticipated and lived for holiday of the year and many are already making plans for next year (Yes Kacee I’m talking about you!). For me, however, I cannot begin to think about next Christmas. How could I? I still have a severe pain in my lower back from taking down lights, storing the tree, and making 20 plus trips to storage. Monday is my first official day of work in 2009 and we still have Christmas presents stacked in every corner of the house. With so much to play with Brynlee still insists on pushing the same button over and over on her toy computer (which causes the monkey to make the same sound over and over!). Pardon me for not thinking about Christmas 2009; I’m having a hard time getting over this year!
You will have to forgive my negative attitude. Kacee has accused me of being the Grinch himself on more than one occasion. There’s just something about the commercialism of Christmas that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s one too many “black Fridays.” Or maybe it’s the overemphasis of the “Holiday Season” and a lack of emphasis on the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever the reason I occasionally have to check the mirror to make sure I’m not turning green and growing long hair all over my body.
I’m reminded of a story I once heard about two ladies who were walking through the mall a few weeks before Christmas. As they peered into the window of a store garnered with nativity scenes, one friend said to the other, “I’m so sick of religion trying to horn in on my Christmas!” As funny as this story may sound, it may be closer to the truth than we want to admit. Consider this, since 1997, Holiday retail sales have increased an average of 15 million dollars a year. In 2007 record sales neared 470 billion dollars. That means on average, most consumers spent 816 dollars on holiday-related shopping this season. Compare these numbers to the estimated 275 billion dollars Americans gave to charity last year. That’s almost half as much as we spent on Christmas alone.
Regardless of my “poor” Christmas spirit, I have to be honest; I love presents (Don’t tell Kacee, I have a reputation to protect). But who doesn’t like getting presents? Not a single one of us, not even the Grinch himself, would want to get rid of presents. This year marked my 33rd Christmas and I still receive the same warmth in my heart when my mom passes out presents that I did 20 years ago.
But what about giving presents? At what point in our life do we feel this same warmth in our heart from giving a present that we have when we receive a present? Jesus, after all, did say "It is more blessed to give than to receive." However, faced with a holiday season that's too often fraught with chaos, stress, waste, and debt, it's easy to lose track of the pleasure and meaning of giving. At its core, the exchange of gifts should be a joyous ritual. Those neck ties, iPods, and tennis bracelets we bestow upon loved ones should serve as an acknowledgment of admiration and appreciation. Unfortunately, to many, gift giving has grown to represent the headache accompanied with the chore of finding something for someone that already has everything.
Most people would agree that when they feel gratitude for what they have received, they have an experience of fullness. From that fullness, you naturally want to give back. Based upon the one “true gift” God gave us, do we not have a responsibility to give to others? Or, to put it boldly, if we do not honor our Giver by giving to others, then maybe we never truly accepted His gift. As a believer, if we truly comprehend what Christ has done for us, then surely out of gratitude we will strive to show that same love to others.
More on this in a few days. Until then, welcome to 2009. Aspire to new heights!
3 days ago