Christmas is a holiday known for the giving and receiving of gifts, a tradition that (arguably) began with the Magi giving the newborn Messiah gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gift giving around this time of year can be stressful. And yet, after all is said and done, I think most people would agree that the tradition of giving is just as fun as receiving.
I have been on the receiving end of some memorable gifts over the years. A particularly touching gift was given to my sister and I in tandem when we were little girls. One set of Grandparents hand-made us matching doll beds, complete with mini quilts. That is a gift that will only get sweeter as I grow older. Another meaningful gift was given to me by my parents in my teen years. I received a second Ipod Nano with a note attached that read “It’s Called Love”. This was a gift of grace as I had put my first device through the washing machine. A more recent gift came from my other set of Grandparents just a couple of years ago. It was a ticket to see one of my favorite bands, and one they had never heard before. More than the gifts themselves, I was touched by the thought that they put behind them.
While exchanging gifts is a sweet tradition, there is so much more to the Christmas season than the tangible gifts wrapped in beautiful paper. Christmas also gives us intangible blessings every year. Here are some of my favorite “gifts”.
First is The Gift of Family. Yes, we spend time together year round, but Christmas encourages uninterrupted family togetherness. Work and busyness are put aside to make room for spending time with loved ones. As I have aged, I look forward to Christmas Eve spent at my Grandparents’ house, Christmas day with my immediate family, and our January celebration with forty one members of the other side of my family catching up after a year apart. Nothing beats celebrating with the people who know you best.
Second is The Gift of Traditions. This gift works in tandem with family. After all, each family has special and unique traditions that make the season personally meaningful for them. These special traditions are what shape our memories as children, and they will eventually shape our own children’s memories. While there are traditions the world shares, like decorated trees, lights on houses, and Christmas-movies, it is the personal traditions that bring magic to individual households. My family holds these traditions close each and every year. On Christmas Eve, my “Gramcraker” makes her famous eggnog, a crowd favorite. My immediate family shifts gears on Christmas day to open gifts, rest, and bake a yule log cake to be eaten after dinner. We end the day singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Our final tradition is planned for January when twenty-eight of my cousins and second cousins exchange secret Santa gifts, sing Christmas songs, and play games late into the evening. These are the “gifts” that I will carry with me the rest of my life.
Thirdly, and most importantly is The Gift of Jesus Christ. The very first Christmas gift that was given to each of us personally by God himself. The Savior was a gift of grace, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Born to die and hang on a tree, Jesus died for you and for me. He is the ultimate gift of grace, as his perfect blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins is what gives us the opportunity for a restored relationship with our Lord once again. Without Jesus’ birth, there would be no shedding of perfect blood, no resurrection, and no hope for humanity. Jesus truly is the reason for our celebration, the reason we give gifts, because we know and have received the only gift we could ever need in this life. This is what gives magic to the Christmas season, for without Christ it is an empty celebration.
As you celebrate the Christmas season, I invite you to dwell on all of the blessings bestowed upon you. My hope is that you experience great peace, as you celebrate the birth of God’s son, and spend time with your loved ones. These are the only gifts that will far surpass the holiday season. Have a Merry Christmas!Martha Thornhill