I almost hesitate to write what I’m about to share with you, my dear readers, although this has been brewing for several weeks now. I’ve written about the angst the Christmas season has been wrapped in for me for more years than I can recall. I’ve allowed you a peek into what goes on in my head and in my heart when what we say we believe about Christmas and what we actually do at Christmas are not the same thing. The disconnect between what we say we believe to be the Gospel and the way we live our lives leaves me wondering if we are not really “practical atheists”. Because when we say we believe one thing but live out another, do we really believe what we say we believe?
I’ll cut to the chase here this morning because I know you have things to do and places to go. I would love to quickly share how I have made a small attempt at reconciling these two things in my own life – the things I believe and the life I actually live.
I look at Jesus, putting on skin, living among us, being present with us. And I have to ask myself… when we give gifts to those around us, do we do it because we love them or because it eases our conscience? Do we do it because we should do it or because we want to? Even more than that, do we do it because it’s the easy thing to do? Often times for me, giving a gift and walking away is the easier thing. Being like Jesus, and being present with people is often the harder thing. We say we want to be like Jesus, but then we don’t want to do what Jesus did. And I’m not sure we get to be like Jesus if we don’t do what He did.
Being present with those around me and with those people God puts in my life is one of the ways I have attempted to reclaim Christmas over the past few years. One way our family did that this year was by hosting an Operation Christmas Child shoe box packing party where we invited the classmates of my 11 and 13 year old daughters to help package gifts for children around the world. Our vision was to get to know the families of my daughters’ classmates, while at the same time inviting them to join in the work God is already doing. We worked together, ate together and prayed together that evening. It was a beautiful and sacred time. My hope and prayer is that the relationships sparked on that evening will be enduring, but they will be enduring only as we continue to be present with my daughters’ classmates.
Another way we as a family have tried to bring more meaning to the Christmas season is by choosing a gift out of the World Vision gift catalog each year on Christmas morning. One year we chose the gift of chickens and ducks for families in other parts of the world. Another year we chose the gift of a goat so a family would have a bit of income from the milk they would be able to sell. We’ve also chosen a child to sponsor as a reminder that the true spirit of Christmas is something that goes with us throughout the year, not only on Christmas Day, and that we want to be present with this young girl as she grows and matures into the woman God has created her to be.
I have tried to be more intentional about being present with people in my church, with the clerk at the grocery store and with the waitress at the restaurant. I have tried to be present with my children, sitting with them, listening and hearing their hearts. I have tried to be present with those who see things differently, listening and hearing their stories, trying to understand their perspective. I have tried to be intentional about sitting with friends in their pain, being present when it is excruciating to do so.
These are a few of the things that have made Christmas more meaningful for our family the last several years and what I’ve hesitated to share, and here is why: we don’t want to reduce this to a formula for everyone to follow – this is only our story and our experience. If you are looking for deeper meaning this Christmas, ask Jesus to show you what that looks like for your family. If this inspires you to do something similar, praise Jesus! More than anything, follow the heart of Jesus yourself. Ask Him to show you what He wants your Christmas to look like. Yes, we can get ideas from other people and be inspired, but my aim is to point you to Him. Look to Him for direction as you seek to make Him the center of your Christmas this year and every year!
Jesus came to be with us, poor wretched souls desperately in need of a Saviour. He came to bring a gift – no, to Be the Gift. Will we be like Jesus this Christmas? Will we be the gift – and be present with those God has brought into our lives? Will we take the spirit of Christmas with us throughout the year – being present with those around us not only at Christmas, but each and every day?