Even before the jack-o-lanterns were blown out and the Halloween candy was put on sale, the Christmas retail wars began. Free shipping and deep discounts became available immediately. In some stores, Black Friday sales were offered before the end of October. Yikes!
Christmas is all about giving! It’s our opportunity to tell family and friends we love and appreciate them by the giving of a gift. Plus, admit it, there is a certain amount of pride a person feels in being able to snag a real bargain during this frenzied shopping season. I’m sure it’s good for the economy, too, and we need to be supportive of that, right? Off we go, cutting coupons, searching online to compare prices, waiting in long lines for deep discounts at Walmart or Target or Costco. Maybe you’re a DYI person who finds yourself knitting, quilting, sewing or baking up a storm at this time of year. Good for you!
Often times I find myself annoyed by this early emphasis on Christmas shopping. It makes me feel like I’m already “behind” on my plans and responsibilities. Just let me eat turkey and count my blessings first. Then I can begin to think about what the best Christmas gift might be.
Maybe I need to go back to the original reason for Christmas to discover the best gift. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. Maybe I need to look for the best gift ideas in the Bible as opposed to the catalogues. Jesus’ birth is the first Gift of Christmas. He is God’s gift to us showing us how much he loves us. We did nothing to earn this gift. It is truly an offering from God which he hopes we will humbly accept. We Minnesotans are not always good at accepting gifts. We feel self-conscious or undeserving. We might push it away or give it back, not wanting to appear needy or greedy. God’s gift of love is one he wants us to embrace, allowing it to change the way we live. It will overflow in our hearts, spilling out to others in our lives.
Does that mean I should skip shopping? I love the spirit of giving. Can I get it done early, like the retail stores are encouraging me to do, leaving December for a focus on Jesus? I want to visit Bethlehem with the shepherds to see the baby in the manger, recognizing him as God’s gift of love and accepting that gift in my heart. To experience the meaning of Christmas is to learn the importance of graciously receiving God’s love. This year I want to make Christmas a time of humbly receiving not a time of pride in what I’m giving. We all know the cliché, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Maybe we need to turn it around for Christmas. Embrace that baby Jesus and let him grow in your heart all year!