It’s Christmas time again! It is that most wonderful time of the year! Though not everyone can make that statement, I hope it is true for you.
One of the great traditions of Christmas is the exchange of gifts. I still smile when I think of the excitement my siblings and I experienced trying to sleep on Christmas Eve when we were children. My parents had a rule that we could retrieve our stockings filled with an orange (always, an orange) along with candy, a new pair of socks, and a small gift, such as a pocketknife any time after midnight. But, we couldn’t wake them up until after 6am to open our gifts under the tree. My parents always made Christmas special!
Gift-giving probably dates to the Biblical account of the wise men that visited the Christ-child after His birth. These “Magi” brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh as the first Christmas gifts. Through the years, the practice of giving gifts has blossomed into the commercial bonanza that we experience today.
Today, I would like to offer my suggestion for three gifts this Christmas that will not only bless others but could be life-changing to you. These gifts might cost you nothing financially, but, in a sense, they could cost you everything. Confusing, yes, so you’ll have to keep reading to understand what I mean.
Here are my suggestions for three gifts this Christmas that could make this the very best Christmas of your life:
Gift #1 – Allow yourself to truly enjoy Christmas this year
The first gift I would like to describe is to allow yourself to put aside the expectations, routines, and efforts that make Christmas a stressful time for so many. Allow yourself to simplify your Christmas this year and be blessed by the sights, sounds, and feelings.
Too many individuals are trying to juggle so many balls at Christmas that they end up dropping them all. At work, you are feverishly trying to complete important projects before the end of the year. Your kids have extra commitments with school programs, parties, gifts for teachers, and events. You are trying to avoid the last-minute rush to buy Christmas gifts… if you can even think of great gifts to buy! You have company coming, so you want the house to be just perfect and the food to be the best. Your aging parents need your attention. You haven’t even called your best friend in weeks! Sometimes, we simply try to do so much that we miss the joy of Christmas.
This year, try something different. Say no to those extra things that you know you won’t have time to do. Try giving gift cards instead of finding that perfect unique gift. Get carry-out pizza instead of preparing homemade lasagna with French bread. Simplify! Then, use the extra time to take a drive and see the Christmas lights. Spend an evening walking through your downtown shops rather than the mall. Grab an afghan, snuggle with your sweetie, and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie or two. Make candy or cookies… and eat some dough in the process. Go to a Christmas program at a school or church even if you have no family members participating.
In other words, what is it about Christmas that you remember most as a child? What of those things have you not done in years? Now, make a commitment to go do that again.
I remember going Christmas caroling as a child. It was an activity we did as Boy Scouts, and we visited the community adult care facilities and sang for the residents. Last Christmas, we spread the word that we needed to do that at one of our local facilities. It turned out to be great fun! We took requests from the residents and many of them sang along with us. We had a chance to share what Christmas means to us and cookies were shared by the residents. We left that night with a fresh perspective of the true joy of Christmas!
What is it that you miss about Christmas that you can do this year? Consider it a gift to yourself to simplify your life and find a way to rekindle that warm feeling of love and happiness that makes Christmas special.
Gift #2 – Be a blessing to someone else this Christmas
The next gift we need to discuss is the gift that you can be to someone else. How are you planning to bless someone else this Christmas? I’m not necessarily talking about giving gifts… material gifts… but, pouring your life into that of someone else.
One of the things that I believe has changed over the last few decades is a shift in focus from others to self. I believe many individuals today are focused on self-fulfillment, self-gratification, self-care, individuality, “staying within yourself” … rather than on doing for others. What happened to “do unto others” or “ask not what your country can do for you…”?
This Christmas would be the perfect time for each of us to find a way – or a way every day – to make a difference for someone else. John Bunyan once said,
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
Serving others is the simplest definition of selflessness. Putting your own needs and desires aside to meet the needs of someone else is what makes us human. And it is impossible to focus on your own hurts, stress, and difficulties when you are striving to make a difference for someone else.
Just a couple days ago, I visited a man in a full-time care facility that is suffering from severe dementia. At least five times in the few minutes with him, he suddenly broke down in tears. Some hidden sad memory kept resurfacing and he experienced the grief from that event over-and-over again all day long. When you experience and share the burdens of another, the load you carry seems much lighter, if you can even remember you’re carrying it at all.
You might ask, “What can I do to serve someone else? How can I make my gift of service real to another?” The best advice I can give is to simply look around. It is difficult to walk one block without seeing some way you can make a difference to someone else. Some ways to serve are small and simple, like picking up something dropped or opening a door or being kind to a service person. Other meaningful ways to serve might involve more intentionality, such as running errands for someone that is home-bound.
Perhaps the greatest way you can serve another this Christmas is with your time. Think back 5 years ago… who was important in your life then that you haven’t seen or spoken to in longer than a year? How about 10 years ago? Would it be difficult to take a few minutes to make a phone call or write a personal note? Or, better yet, make some cookies and personally deliver them.
When you take time to serve someone else, you are giving a part of yourself which is more valuable than anything you could buy. Make this Christmas special by blessing someone else.
Gift #3 – Accept God’s greatest gift to us this Christmas
The entire purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the greatest gift ever given… the only Son of God born in the most humble circumstance possible. You might ask, “Why was the birth of Jesus Christ so important? Why is it a big deal today? Does it matter for me personally?” Let me try to answer these questions.
Humans are born innocent but tainted with a tendency to do wrong. We are not naturally inclined to love others and always do what is right. Our default is to serve ourselves first. This is called sin. We all have the problem of sin in our lives because we are the offspring of Adam, the original sinner, and because we individually seek our own will, not God’s will.
This sin problem separates us from God. He is Holy and our sin creates a brokenness that had to be repaired. That was why Jesus was sent to earth. God’s Son became flesh on that first Christmas. He lived a perfect life but was murdered on a cross. He was buried but rose from the dead on the third day. His death and resurrection paid the penalty that we could never pay for ourselves. As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God now accepts us as His children for all who believe and accept Jesus as Savior (He paid our debt) and Lord (He is Supreme, and we owe everything to Him). If you simply believe in your heart that Jesus is God’s Son, ask Him to forgive you for your sin, accept Him, and commit your life to serving Him, He promises that you will live forever with Him in heaven.
Essentially, God gave Jesus as a free gift. All we must do to inherit eternal life in heaven is to accept that free gift. That is all… there is nothing we can do to earn it… no one else can accept that gift in our place… Believing and receiving that gift that is the beginning of an amazing journey while we live and an unending eternity after our days here are complete.
Too many individuals think that becoming a believer in God is more complex than it really is. They believe that they need to get their lives straightened out first. Or, that God could never forgive someone that has done what they have done. Let me quote a Bible verse (Romans 5:8) that means a lot to me, “God demonstrates His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In the midst of our very worst, God gave His very best! All we need to do is yield ourselves to Him and receive Him.
I accepted God’s gift of Jesus when I was twenty-one years old. When I did, God helped me to become a completely different person. Now, I have a hope and a purpose for my life that didn’t exist before. My purpose is to serve God by loving Him and loving others. My hope is a confidence that God is faithful and is preparing for me to spend eternity in heaven with Him. That is the big deal about Christmas!
So, that is my hope for you… that you will embrace these 3 gifts of Christmas in ways you’ve never done before. My hope is that this Christmas is more special than any you ever enjoyed and that you will be the source of joy for everyone around you. Please accept my challenge to accept and give these wonderful gifts of Christmas.
If you are looking for other thoughts on Christmas past, present, and future, feel free to see my other previous posts on this topic. Some of these include: “Christmas Memories” (Christmas Memories); “What makes Christmas so magical” (What makes Christmas so magical?); “The Christmas Kitten” (The Christmas Kitten); “What is your hope?” (What is your hope?); “I have seen the light” (I have seen the light!); and “The Five Superheroes of Christmas” (The Five Superheroes of Christmas). I hope this is your best Christmas yet!