Thursday, December 16, 2010

                There are no presents under the Christmas tree this year. We’re doing things a little differently. Because the kids will not be here with us, we’re making up packages for the pastors and their families. There are six in all. So, there are no presents under the tree which is fine.
 It’s been claimed that commercialism has taken over the Christmas season and taken all the meaning out of it. I’m not so sure about that. Recently the idea of gift giving has gotten a bad rap. Our Christmas giving list gets longer, the children’s list gets more expensive and the lines at the mall become unbearable as shoppers literally fight for their places. Then, there’s the inevitable “must have” item that was launched just in time for the Christmas season. Some families resort to drawing names or giving to charity instead because there’s just too much stress involved in the holiday shopping experience. I know, I’ve experienced it too.
                I decided to read through the account of the wise men who presented their gifts to Jesus in Matthew chapter two. According to O. Henry who wrote the short story, The Gift of the Magi, this is where the tradition of gift giving got its start. I’m inclined to agree which got me to thinking about this whole idea of gift giving at Christmas time. Does it really have to be so stressful? Where is the joy in giving anymore? I resolved to follow the example of the wise men.
                The first thing I noticed in verse 10 was the joy the wise men felt when they finally reached the end of their long journey. They stood in front of the house where Joseph, Mary and Jesus lived and “rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” They were ecstatic! They knew the One for whom they had brought gifts was in that little abode and could not wait to get in there and meet Him. This ecstatic joy was invariably on my daughter’s face every Christmas morning when she proudly delivered her gifts to each one of her family members. As a matter of fact, she pulled all the presents she bought out first for us to open. Hers could wait. I’ll miss that this year, but I’m willing to let my parents enjoy it for a change.
                Verse 11 explains that their gift giving was an act of worship to the Lord. When they saw little Jesus sitting on his mother’s lap they sank to their knees. They knew this young boy was someone of great significance and was worthy of the gifts they had brought. My daughter’s excitement at our opening the gifts she so carefully picked out and paid for demonstrated to us how much she loves us. She considered us to be worthy of her gifts.
                And then, there were the gifts themselves; very valuable and noteworthy gifts. These wise men put a lot of thought into these gifts and each one was worthy of the recipient. In other words, they were not cheap. The gold signified Christ’s deity, the frankincense His purity, and myrrh was foretelling of His death on the cross. These wise men in choosing their gifts well in advance of their journey from the east did so with care. It seems they knew they would find someone who was to be a significant political leader. Taking my daughter Christmas shopping was also a momentous event. She usually had her list all made out and put quite a bit of thought into what she wanted to get for each person. She is an observant child, always taking in the details of a person’s life and paying attention to their likes and dislikes. She never misses with her presents for this very reason.
                So, even though Doug and I have chosen not to exchange gifts to each other this year, we’ve decided to put some thought into what the pastors and their families would like—something worthy of who they are; faithful servants of the Lord. The men will receive a devotional book, the women some nice smelling soaps. The children will get clothes and a little something to play with. The tradition of giving gifts will go on in this family. And we’ll do it with joy.

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