"I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time... as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time... the only time... when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers...."
- Fred, Ebenezer Scrooge's Nephew in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Gifts, gifts, and more gifts. Yesterday I received a call from a family member asking what we wanted for Christmas. It's the same phone call we get each year. A family member isn't sure what to get and thus calls. Then we spend the next week trying to figure out if there is anything we need. Frankly, I don't need anything. I have literally all I need. I, unlike many in our world, don't have to worry about where I might sleep, where my next meal will come from, or who loves me. Each of these are taken care of, or offered to me. In fact, too often I take them for granted. Usually, Christmas, in terms of gift giving, is more about what I want rather than what I need. I often become more distracted by what I receive than by what is taking place around me.
Often there are gifts being given of which I take little notice. The gift of time shared, the gift of care and concern with family we haven't seen, the gift of joy and laughter, even at times, the gift of mourning and consoling, all in this season. The consumer side of Christmas often drowns out the gifts that are not material. And when I look upon past Christmas' celebrated with family and friends, these were the true gifts I needed.
Fred's speech certainly hits home with me. Christmas when celebrated properly, helps us see the true gifts of Christmas, like the gift of one another and our common humanity. These gifts certainly come from God. The story of Jesus' birth is about meeting a need we didn't know we had. And if we pay attention, those gifts of God frequently show up during this season. As people filled with generosity and charity abound, we see more poignantly God's handiwork all around us. This year, what would it look like to focus less on the gifts we expect but on the gifts we often overlook? Moreover, what if we began to imagine how we might supply gifts of need to others which are often downplayed? Rather than simple material gifts, we might offer time, space, and love to a friend or someone who would least expect it. Imagine the impact of such a gift. As we move toward Christmas, may we see God's gifts around us, and may we offer a different kind of gift this year!
Pastor Nathan Kilbourne