Like most kids, I loved Christmas, but I was completely wrong about the holiday.
Every Christmas there was a special gift that I really, really wanted. It may have been the Six Million Dollar Man action figure with bionic grip. It may have been an eight track tape deck or it may have been the Holy Grail of Christmas gifts, the Atari 2600. Whatever it was that particular year, my happiness seemed to hinge on finding that gift under the Christmas tree on December 25th.
I was wrong about Christmas.
I consider myself a fairly thoughtful person. I like to think things through and ponder the different facets of any given issue. I even liked to think about things as a kid. I remember one Christmas season contemplating adulthood. My conclusion was that Christmas must be terrible for adults. We proved it every yuletide.
Each year, we hung our Christmas stockings “by the chimney with care” just like the poem says. I had a monster sized red velvet stocking. I loved searching through my stocking of gifts, trinkets and candies almost as much as opening my presents. A little family joke every Christmas was hanging a plain white tube sock alongside the others for my Dad. And while all the other ornate stockings were overflowing with delicious treats and presents, my Dad would get a single orange or grapefruit shoved into this little sock. We would laugh and laugh as he pulled out his piece of fruit each Christmas morning. It was all in fun, but I thought that was about the reality of Christmas for adults. The kids get all the good stuff. The adults get the shaft.
I was wrong about Christmas.
The truth about Christmas is that the joy belongs to the giver. I never understood that until I was a parent. I still appreciate a thoughtful gift, but the joy is in the giving. The joy is in blessing someone else. The joy is bringing joy to another.
Acts 20:35 says “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That sounds like a lecture that you give to your kids after they are disappointed with their gifts or you try to convince them that helping someone else is more important than what you get.
The thing is that it is resoundingly true. Nothing brings greater blessing than to be a blessing. To serve…to give…to help…brings far more joy and happiness than what you have or what you can get. And of course, this isn’t just about Christmas. It is about life. Above all else, we are called to love.
When you love, you give.
When you love, you act.
When you love, you do.
And while that may involve some self-sacrifice, the irony is that it isn’t any sacrifice at all. Jesus was right. The biggest blessing…the greatest joy…the deepest happiness comes when we give.
I think most of us realize this is true at Christmas. We enjoy the giving, but we need to let it morph into a generous way of life.
God loved and so he gave. He gave Jesus at a stable on Christmas. He gave Jesus on a cross on Good Friday. That had to be excruciatingly hard, but it was also his pleasure. The joy belongs to the giver.
I was wrong about Christmas, but now I’m trying to get it right in life.