While perusing Facebook this morning I ran across pictures of various children gleefully playing with their Christmas presents. There were also pictures of Christmas trees almost suffocating from the mounds of festively-wrapped gifts underneath. And there were dozens of comments from family and friends and acquaintances wishing me and mine a “Very Merry Christmas!”. Some people added phrases like, “…remember the reason for the season” or “Jesus is the reason for the season”. I thought back to how excited my own children used to be on Christmas morning. I also reminisced about my own childhood Yuletide moments. There were gifts, and food, and laughter. There were traditions like church Christmas speeches and bags of fruit/candy/nuts. And although traditions have changed a bit, the spirit of the season feels very familiar to me. It is marked by family and friends sharing, loving, and giving. And in my opinion this is what Jesus wants for his birthday.
I say this while thinking of some who cant seem to enjoy the Holidays because of what they call “crass commercialization”. They look down upon those who run out and buy the latest toys for their kids. They give the side-eye to those who spend good money on material gifts for their loved ones. Some people angrily point to supposed pagan origins of this holiday season; linking Christmas trees to ancient idols and such. There may be some truth in these claims, I don’t know. And I do believe that its not good to accumulate debt in order to pile up material things that no one needs. But I think some people miss a very simple truth about Jesus Christ. According to John 17:13 his prayer includes that His joy be made full in us. In John 13:34 Jesus said that our love for one another shows the world that we are His disciples. This is His birthday, and Jesus wants us to love one another and experience joy.
I understand that sometimes people get too wrapped up in the material aspects of the season and play competitive gift-giving. Some people are just “showing off”. But I personally don’t think that’s whats going on with most people. I believe most of us give gifts to bring joy to our friends and family. I have experienced the deep satisfaction of seeing my children tear open gifts that I bought and dance around the house squealing with glee. I feel the warmth and love of my extended family when we gather together on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. And I think Jesus does too. So I don’t feel the least built guilty about buying gifts for people or gathering around the Christmas tree. On the contrary, I pray that we all have a Merry Christmas filled with joy, love, good food and gifts.