By Krista Sweeney
Christmas is almost here! The malls are crowded, the lights are all hung and Starbucks holiday drinks are everywhere.
As much as I love all the toffee lattes and hearing Michael Buble, I have had a difficult time getting into the typical holiday spirit. I’m definitely not a Grinch, but I have recently seen a shift in how I view what it means to give and receive this season.
As a kid, I remember my parents asking us what we wanted for Christmas. Each year, we would get the same question and give different answers. With well meaning intentions, I have never felt resentful towards the loving gestures of wanting to please us kids. Yet, now as an adult, I find myself wanting more this Christmas.
What I want is something no one can’t put a cute bow on; I’m asking for something that can’t be found on Etsy: I want more from God.
I’m asking for more faithfulness in uncertainty; I am asking for the ability to love more freely; and I’m asking for the courage to walk fervently towards community. Ultimately, I am asking to be more in tune with Christ.
While we have always needed His guidance and provision, there is a difference in our heart posture when we truly want more in our relationship with God. Not only are we more receptive when we consciously ask for more of God’s character to be shown in our lives, but we are also more prone to making choices for the sake of Christ.
MORE THAN GIFT GIVING
In my desire to want more, I have been trying to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and what spurred people on to give gifts in the first place.
What in the world made people think it was totally “normal” to join in with hundreds of other people, flock to the closest shopping center, and spend money on others? How did we come up with such a consumer based tradition when Christmas started with the lowly birth of a glorious King? When did it turn away from the birth of Christ?
As I don’t know exactly when the shift occurred, I can assume what the cause was: humans. We are prone to turning the magnificent things of God into the things of man. We often see God doing great things, turn inward, and think that we can take care of the rest. Since God started it, we can finish it, right? He gave us a Son to celebrate and so we must capitalize on it for ourselves. We can make God’s good gift our own selfish gain.
BACK TO JESUS
With all of the shopping, the decorating, the Christmas work parties, and the gift exchanges, do we really see how far we can veer off the path? Do we even take moments to remember where this garland cover holiday began?
It started way back when a prophecy came true. A miracle baby was born to a virgin in a little town, and they called Him Immanuel. He was the fruition of a foretelling of long ago, and God had planned to send Himself in the form of man to save the world. God was giving the ultimate gift and put it on display for the whole world to see: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
God didn’t need a fancy bow or Etsy to customize His perfectly made gift. This was designed distinctly for us. He gave us a sign that He was going to redeem the world. God gave us Jesus: “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be our peace” (Micah 5:2-5, NIV).
Let’s get back to Jesus. Let’s get back to what it means to be given a gift of peace with such magnitude, and receive it with open hearts. I pray to learn how to receive the great gift of God in Christ and I pray this prayer for us all. May we start to see the gifts we give in reflection of the Great Gift that was given to us, saving the entire world from eternal separation from our Creator. My hope is that we can all turn our eyes away from the shiny wrappings and sale signs, and focus ourselves on what God did for mankind. Let this season be a season of heart change, resulting in our minds being focused on the truest meaning of Christmas in Christ. Pray with me:
Lord, let our hearts be set on You. May we see Your great gift with fresh eyes. Let our giving this season be in reflection of Your giving heart towards us. As we receive gifts from others, may we do so in a way the mirrors our hearts receiving our salvation in You. May You be the one who outshines all the lights of the season. As we step into celebration of the birth of Your Son, may we celebrate in Your greatest gift of all: Jesus. We love you Lord, and pray all of this in Your Holy Name. Amen.