Cars line up for miles around the malls all across the country. The TV commercials have started selling Holiday cheer early in October. My husband and I barely talk to each other these days. We are like two passing ships in the night, loaded with activities between our children’s school and our church. ‘Tis the Season! The song says this is the season to be jolly, but I wonder how truly joyful we are during the holidays. Better yet, I wonder how often we forget the true reason for the season.
We Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior. Jews celebrate Hanukkah and other religions have special celebrations during this time of the year. Regardless of religion, the world has chosen this time of the year to celebrate love through the gift of giving. And so we hurry to the malls and to our computers to buy the latest and greatest in order to show our love to our family and friends. We overspend and overstress and, when December is over, many of us are loaded with new stuff and lacking the joy and peace that the season is supposed to bring.
I wonder how it would be if we decided to have a less gift-centered and more love-centered Christmas? What would happen if, together with that massage gift card to grandma, we included a note saying that we will call and visit her more often in the New Year? What if we limited our children’s gifts to two or three packages and challenged them to ask Santa to bring something that they can give to a child in need? What if, instead of a new watch or sweater, we gave mom and dad the gift of forgiveness and restoration? What if, instead of hurrying to endless parties and shows, we committed one afternoon in December to bring a word of encouragement to a sick friend… or someone who is missing a family member for the first time this year at Christmas. What if…
If each of us could ask for anything we wanted for Christmas, I wonder how many material things would be on the list. I dare say that most of the items would not be something that we could purchase at any retail store. I dare say kids would ask for more quality time with their parents. Some would ask for their marriage to be restored. Others would ask for emotional or physical healing. Some would ask for more love. Or forgiveness. Or joy… true, unshakeable joy.
December brings a colorful array of holiday cheer, as the cities are beautifully dressed with light. But I feel challenged today to take that same brightness inside – to my heart. I am challenged to give God more praise and thanksgiving for what I do have, as well as for the promises I have in him. I am challenged to reach out and love more instead of give more. I want my friends to know they can count on me when things are not so bright. I want my mom and dad to know that I love them just as they are. I am challenged to hug my children more and to pray faithfully for those in need. I am challenged to sow peace and joy, not just in December, but throughout the year.
My Christmas tree will not be as loaded with gifts this year as the years before. I am done shopping. Now I start wrapping the gifts that make the season truly jolly: Gratitude. Faith. Time. Love. Gifts that will last. Let the joyful giving begin!