Every year as we journey through the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas, many lament the significant commercial aspects of Christmas in our modern and fast-paced culture. Those people are well-intentioned and make a sound point that the primary focus for Christians should shine on the birth of Jesus, and less on the drive for purchasing presents. Yet, I feel some of those opponents of the gift giving season might be a bit unwilling to see the matter in a different light.
We should strive to give gifts from a place of love and not as an obligation; however, we must not denigrate even those gifts given from a sense of duty, because whenever we fulfill a thoughtful responsibility, we are doing good. Let us not forget that for Christians (and indeed the full world), the reality of Christmas is a joyous occasion—for it was the birth of Christ that gives everyone the hope of salvation and eternal life. Christmas Day is one of the highest feast days in the Church calendar, and for a good reason, it is the day we celebrate the birth of the Messiah. It is good to remember that feast days are cause for celebration—the Church advises us to treat these days as times of joy.
Many Christians who set out to defened gift giving will point to the three wise men and the presents they brought to the new born king (expensive gifts) of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and while that does help provide a sound foundation for giving during Christmas time, the greater reason is that giving in nearly all forms results in many blessings. The gift-giver is blessed, as well as the recipients, the stores, the various companies making the many items we purchase, along with the people who work at jobs where their income originates from such consumptions. Furthermore, families are blessed and enriched because of the exchange of gifts, they are often drawn closer during those days, and the funds to pay for their homes, and all their other goods often exist because of the rich tradition our culture enjoys during the most festive time of year. How can anyone reject so much goodness?
None of this is meant to imply that we shouldn’t slow down during the Advent Season. It’s wise to set aside time for prayer and contemplation of the most cherished gift we have ever received, and that is the birth of our Lord. The nation would be well served if more Christians took just a little time for Jesus during this joyous and holy time, each year. Those who feel stressed when attempting to purchase every present on their various lists might benefit the most from some prayerful downtime. However, let us not forget how blessed we are to have a savior born to the world, and let us not feel ashamed to celebrate that event through the channel of gift giving that has such a long and joyous history. It is through giving that we are richly blessed, at Christmas, or at any other time of year.
Perhaps, when you feel the most strained during Christmas Season, it would be wise to take a few minutes to ask the Lord for His Grace to help lift your spirits, and it might offer a fantastic opportunity to do something kind for those around you—a smile, a door held open, a helping hand to someone with many packages. The well-timed small gesture can often raise the spirits of those around us, and kind acts often lift our own.
Opportunities to learn about various acts of darkness surrounds us on an almost daily basis. In response to that reality, it is wise to bring as much light and goodness into the world as we can; therefore, I say go ahead and joyously purchase gifts for those you love and allow yourself to feel the happiness that fills the season. Help bring light into the world by embracing the traditions of the season—it is a time to banish darkness from our lives and embrace the hope that the birth of Jesus brings. Go ahead, ignore all the naysayers and all the Santa bashers–be corny and joyful, be different, and dare to be happy! 🙂