It’s that time once again everyone – Christmas is coming soon, whether you like it or are ready for it or not. Most of our Christmases have a lot in common. From year to year we gather with friends and/or family, we eat and possibly drink too much, and of course we exchange gifts as well. The old tradition of gift giving at Christmas, taken from the Magi’s gifts to the Christ-child, is practiced all over the world now.
So you could say Christmas is a time of excess for many if not most of us. Excess food, drink and lots of overspending thrown in there as well. Then there’s the excess travel, and the stress and strain of adding all that into our already overpacked schedules. No wonder counseling loads tend to ramp up at a rather steep rate this time of year.
I can tell you that this year my Christmas will be a little different. I suggested to my sisters, brother-in-law and nephews at Thanksgiving that we skip the whole gift exchange thing from now on. I felt we might as well, since for the last several years, all most of us did was exchange Amazon gift cards! It just seems more efficient to do it ourselves rather than exchange cards you know?
Besides, the best Christmas gifts often arrive in unexpected ways and packages and might not cost you anything. Running into an old friend, watching an old movie you love (no, I won’t be watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” great flick but I’ve had enough for a while!), enjoying the cooler weather or just sitting down and having a great chat with a friend or family member you haven’t seen enough of this year.
For myself one huge Christmas gift is coming early and in a small package. A former student and good friend of mine will be arriving in a few days from Myanmar of all places. Thanks to some unexpected events we will only have a few days together, but we’ll make the most of it. After all when someone travels halfway around the world, the very least you can do is to make the most of every moment you get with them.
Spending time with a friend and helping to introduce them to the United States in general, Arizona in particular and Parker specifically will be both an honor and a blast. Beats the heck out of any old gift card that’s for sure!
That’s not all either. The joy of collecting a record number of Christmas Shoe Boxes that, thanks to Samaritan’s Purse, will end up in the hands of some very needy children somewhere around the world is quite a gift too. Imagine spending a few bucks and being able to make a life-changing impact on a child. Not too shabby and one heck of a gift, not only for the child but for me as well.
I could go on but am sure you get the point. Life is full of gifts if we just recognize them for what they are. Our lives are full of gifts aplenty and I believe it’s important that we recognize them as gifts. It’s important because recognizing them as gifts increases our joy and makes us more thankful people. It also reminds us that if we can muster the effort to look beyond ourselves and our little lives, there’s a world full of gifts just waiting to be given and received.
That is, after all, what Christmas is all about. God gives a gift, we respond with gratitude and gifts, and that starts a chain of giving and receiving and more giving that stretches across the world and has lasted for more than two thousand years.
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s more blessed to give than to receive. But remember: if no-one receives, no-one can give. So this holiday season make sure you look for the secret, hidden gifts in your life. Choose to become both a giver and a receiver. Give the gift of being grateful to those who give to you, for few things are more delightful than seeing the joy in someone’s eyes when you surprise them with just the right gift.
Be part of that chain that began over two millennia ago. More than that, let’s all do what we can to extend that chain into the future. What a great gift to give to our children, grandchildren and all our descendants who we may never know or see. But we can know that our efforts are not in vain and have faith that this chain of love that gives and receives will touch them as well.
I’d like to thank those of you who read these rambling thoughts of mine. I have no idea who you are or what you think of this column. But I hope that you have received at least a few of them as the gift I intend for them to be. I’m grateful for each and every one of you, because being able to write this column has been and continues to be a great gift to me.
Merry Christmas everyone!
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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.