Christmas. It’s a subject that pretty well boggles the mind. What words can any mere mortal say that hasn’t already been said after 2011 (plus) years? What wisdom can any of us bring to the table? No words penned by any writer yet has brought about that peace on earth that was promised over millennia ago.
On Christmas Eve, a woman stood near the cashier area of the local Stop & Shop and challenged any of us “believers” to prove that we really believed in the holiday we were celebrating. She declared that it didn’t look to her, observing us racing about with our shopping carts, that we did. Where is this “Christmas” she wanted to know.
Only dread of my mother, a stickler for punctuality, get me from turning back to answer the woman. I could have shown her where it was, why she didn’t “get it”, and given her a simple exercise to find it. All I needed was a bag of nuts, probably walnuts would do, they’re pretty hard, and a nutcracker. That is a real nutcracker – the tool, not the toy, although I would have been glad to throw one in as part of the gift.
I would have pointed at her heart and told her, “This is where you’ll find Christmas. But in order to find it, you must sit down in a chair by your hearth, if you have one, open the bag of walnuts and start cracking and keep on cracking until you find the meaning of Christmas. These people may need to do the same thing, it’s true, but you’re the one asking the questions and if you have to ask, this is the only way you’ll find the answer. The toy nutcracker here will keep you company and see to it that you complete the task.”
Then I would have hurried on my way to have Christmas Eve dinner with Mom and the boys and picked up the ham for the next day’s dinner. Some complain about the commercialism of Christmas, buying the latest gadget, toy, or unwanted gift. Selecting a gift says as much about the giver as the receiver. If you truly love the person to whom you’re giving the gift, your heart (with a little help from Santa Claus) will help you find the right present, one that will make the receiver happy.
Some people are clueless or don’t want to give the receiver the thing that would make them happiest, but the thing of which the giver would most approve. Some people simply give money to meet the obligation, either because they don’t care, don’t know what the other person wants, or don’t approve of what the other person wants. To the most jaded giver, Christmas is, as Scrooge says in the story, ‘an excuse to pick someone’s pocket every 25th of December.’ It is they who complain loudest about the commercialization of Christmas.
Christmas is for children. Only children truly need to be surprised at Christmas. Money (or a gift certificate) seems a cold and selfish gift, but as it avoids many unhappy problems and hurt feelings for adults, it’s not as bad a gift as you might think at first. The thought may count, but if the thoughts are all wrong, bitter, or resentful, it’s no gift at all and totally misses the meaning of Christmas.
All these material things are well and good, but none of them and none of us lasts very long. We received the best gift anyone could give 2011 years ago, at the ultimate cost of the giver. We were given the gift of redemption, of restoration to God, and eternal life.
What more do we want?