“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge
I love the Christmas season. The energy, the lights, family gatherings, great food, and of course a smattering of gifts has always been an enjoyable time of year for me. But, beyond all of these, I’ve always understood that there is something vitally more important.
Christmas is a time for us to honor Christ. Yes, we know it is the season that we celebrate the birth of Christ.
But, celebrating the birth of Christ is about much more than singing “Joy to the World”, hanging a stocking for Jesus over the fireplace, or reading the Christmas story from the bible.
While all of these are great traditions to honor as part of the Christmas celebration, they are not ultimately how to fundamentally celebrate Christ.
No. Celebrating the birth of Christ always begins at the same place. Giving gifts.
Well, that might not sound like any grand revelation. Just a glance under the Christmas tree will prove that there is no shortage of gift giving in many of our homes. In fact, one might argue that most of us give too much.
In fact, a recent Gallup poll estimates that on average Americans will spend close to $800 this Christmas season. And, it isn’t just an American thing. British sources estimate nearly double that amount.
So, indeed, there is plenty of gift giving. But, here is the problem.
Very little of this gift giving is honoring the birth of Christ.
Don’t get me wrong. Giving gifts is nice when it is done in the right spirit, when it doesn’t result in a significant debt burden, and when it is accompanied by a gift receipt (so I can return what I don’t like — little joke).
But, Christ did not come into this world for us to feel happy that we have the latest pair of Air Jordan sneakers, for increased productivity with the newest Apple iPad Air, or to have an enhanced photo sharing capability on the revolutionary Samsung Galaxy 6 Smartphone.
Christ was born into this world as a gift to transform our relationships (upwards) with God the Father, the people around us (sideways), and our own internal sense of self (downward).
The gift of Christ is a healing salve. It repairs the relational breaches that our sinfulness invokes. But, it started with Christ giving the gift of himself.
So, for us to truly celebrate the birth of Christ, our gift giving should serve the same relational connections. Our true Christmas gifts must, therefore, give authentically of ourselves—the true essence of who you uniquely are.
We must ask ourselves three questions in our gift giving.
- How does my gift help this person help this person take a step closer to God?
- How does my gift encourage this person to see the value their life adds to others, include me?
- How does this gift reflect who I am or what I desire to be in this person’s life?
I am not suggesting that you have to have an answer to all three of these questions for every gift that you give this Christmas season.
However, I am suggesting that each of us should evaluate all of our gift giving from this vantage point. And, maybe give one or two people a gift that truly reflects and honors the birth of Christ.
Authentic gift giving is not about superficial or temporal things. We err here because we think that gift giving is about the person to whom the gift is given.
Christ came into this world because He understood that what He represented was life. Within Him is the power of redemption. Within Him is salvation. What He represents is what the world needed then and now.
Your gift giving should also be a reflection of what’s in you. What influence were you born to have. Do the gifts that you share with others reflect your gifting?
Share YOURSELF with others. You (not what you purchase) are the gift that will connect people to God and to one another. You are the gift to help people see themselves in a new way.
When done authentically, that, my friend, is a gift (and as Calvin Coolidge’s quote calls a “state of mind”) that will alway be treasured.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!