It's list time. In my head and on paper. I am not going to lie. I love presents. I love giving presents. Yes, part of the excitement of Christmas morning is those beautiful little bundles of surprise and fun under the tree. the week before the Day of intense shopping is magical and exhausting, but a big part of the celebration. God is a gift giver and so we should be too. Trying to participate in this tradition but not get caught up in materialism and overspending is not an easy task though. A concerted effort is needed to stay within the spiritual purpose of the presents and stay clear away from the commercial monster that hijacks Christmas so often.
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Wise men gifts. Although you won't likely find these products on the Walmart shelf, they can give guidance as to what kinds of gifts to buy. Gold...valuable, long lasting and fit for the little kings and queens we love so much. I try to stay away from the dollar store as much as possible for this reason. Frankincense...pleasing to the senses and healthy. Sure, treats are in order at this time of year, but not so much that it makes us sick, fat and depressed. Gifts are supposed to be a blessing to our bodies not a curse. Myrrh...representative of Jesus future. It foresaw the life of suffering He would face. Our gifts should reflect the person receiving it. It might be something I could use, but it's not for me. I love gifts full of thought and personalized.
The material side of gifts, however often distracts us from Emmanuel. Jesus came diapered and cooing centuries ago. He lived life, then died...just like everyone else. When a loved one passes on, we sentimentally talk of them still being "with us" in spirit. We long to feel their presence in quiet moments and the reality of the person is acknowledged...insisted upon and relied on for comfort and strength. Why don't we do that with Jesus? In fact, He is the only one in history who actually proved, in physical form, that He is no longer dead and communes with us still. The only one to cheat death and continue to be with us in spirit. The only one to reveal Himself to us everyday. He fills a heart with hope, help and happiness. Spending time with family at Christmastime is wonderful too. But there is no gift like the immediate presence of God. His presence is for now. It is more valuable, useful and eternal than gold. It is more pleasing and healing than Frankincense and it is more tailored to our needs and useful for our future than Myrrh.
The movies, songs and cliches of the season seem to focus priority on the gifts and the presence of family and friends. For many, these things are not possible...poverty, sickness, work, broken relationships, or unusual circumstances. It's a reality. So should that ruin Christmas? If it does, then you've missed the point. The point is Emmanuel. GOD with us. Not anyone or anything else...just God. If you have the presence of God with you, then you have Christmas. Mary and Joseph were alone in the stable with God. In their hometown, with no family of friends visiting and no glittery gifts wrapped and under the tree. God alone was with them on the first Christmas morning...and that was enough.
The gifts and the people are wonderful blessings that make the season bright, but if you can't have these, you can still have the essential. The presence of God Almighty. The one who loves you most and best. His presence will fill your heart with every perfect gift and bring the joy Christmas promises.