It’s that time of year when the marketing hype builds to a crescendo and results in a tsunami of consumerism in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. We’ve already tumbled through Black Friday and Cyber Monday (two days that somehow last two weeks), and now we’re in the home stretch which is sure to be filled with even more last minute deals. By the time you read this there will only be 18 (or fewer!) shopping days left until Christmas!!
So is that what Christmas is all about?
A count-down of shopping days? A search for the best deals on the best gifts? A time to spend more money than we can afford and go into debt?
Well no, of course not.
We all know that’s not how it should be, but all too often that seems to be the case – even for those of us who are Christians. What’s supposed to be season of Faith, Hope, and Joy – a celebration of our Savior’s birth – is too often a season of frustration, angst, and exhaustion.
Guilty as charged. I’ve already spent too much time researching stuff online for the “best” deals on the “best” gifts. Time I could have spent with family and friends, enjoying the anticipation of the season – or even writing this blog post!
Now don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to give good gifts, or even the “perfect” gift. After all, God himself is the ultimate gift giver!
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)
And we’re made in God’s image, so it’s a very natural thing for us to want to give good gifts.
So where do we go wrong?
As is the case with most of our struggles, I think it’s a heart issue. Our desire to give good gifts should begin with the recognition that we’re already the recipients of the greatest gift ever given – the gift God has given to each and every one of us in his son Jesus.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)
That baby in a manger 2000 or so years ago isn’t just a cute story for picture books and nativity scenes. That baby was the incarnation of God himself – the God of the universe; the God of all creation; the Alpha and the Omega – who humbled himself and came to earth in human form to save us. And that rescue mission was finished with his death on the cross some 30 years after his birth.
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8, NIV)
Now THAT’s a gift.
A gift of immeasurable sacrifice and infinite worth; a gift that takes us from darkness to light; a gift that brings us from death to life; a gift that transforms us from being children of wrath to children of the one true God; the only gift that delivers true and lasting joy, peace, and contentment.
So the pressure if off! Our job isn’t to find and give the perfect gift – God has that covered already!!
We’re simply called to receive this good and perfect gift from God and revel in it. Immerse ourselves – or better yet – marinate ourselves in it. Let it fill us to overflowing with joy and thanksgiving for what God has already done for us, and then let that truth spill over in joy and love to those around us.
And then let the gifts we give simply be a response to, and a reflection of, the good and perfect gift of God’s amazing Grace in Jesus Christ.