It seems that Christmas decorations are being put up earlier and earlier every year. More and more our community retailers want us to be in the “Christmas Spirit,” which usually translates out as the “Spirit to Spend Money.” I can almost hear the words of the Carol being sung:
Fill the Mall with lots of dollies, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la—
Tis the season to spend money, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la—
Get we out our credit cards, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la—
Run from elves in leotards, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Okay, so forgive my sarcasm and near rhymes, but I must ask the question, what is Christmas about anyway? We complain when people abbreviate Christmas as X-Mas (though we need to remember that “X” is the first letter in the Greek spelling of Christ) and we throw up our fists in rage when a store puts up a “Season’s Greetings” sign rather than a “Merry Christmas” sign, but is the way we celebrate the season any better than the way the culture does? Take a poll of the cards you send to people this year. What percentage of them depict a picture on the front of something that the Bible associates with Christmas? Compare that to the number of Santa cards you send out or pictures with pretty winter scenes. If we are going to complain that the culture is getting it all wrong, ought we not demonstrate something that is better?
What we know is that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ—the second member of the divine Trinity, God the Son, taking flesh to himself and entering into this sinful world to redeem fallen man from rightful judgment. The gifts we give, then, are designed to represent the gift we have received and since when we “do this for the least of these” we do it for Jesus, we express our thanks for the gift that Jesus gave us by giving good gifts to others.
Therein, though, lies the challenge for us in today’s culture. The gift of Christ is designed to point our hearts and thanksgiving towards God. Thus, when we give gifts to others during this season, our gifts, too, out to direct the heart of the recipient toward Christ. Yet, most of the time, the gifts we give turn the heart of the recipient either towards us as giver or inward as the gift meets a perceived want or need.
My prayer for you not only this Christmas season, but throughout the year, is that you work to be intentionally Christian about all of the things you do. The giving of a gift is a wonderful opportunity for you to speak truth and life into the life of someone you care about. The Christmas season also gives you an excuse to offer a gift of Christian love to someone you have been in conflict with, for barriers seem to go down when a good gift is given. Some people will think that this attitude toward gift-giving makes you a little weird; to others, though, it may be the gift that points them to the greatest gift we can receive—eternal life in Christ Jesus.