Christmas morning for the kids is a wonderful time – all kinds of stuff under the tree, in stockings, and all wrapped up.
The Christmas season is a miraculous time for retailers. More and more businesses are saved by shoppers buying Christmas stuff every year.
Of course, the Christmas miracle is not about stuff. Just the name “Christmas” tells us that. It comes from the Old English words Crīstes mæsse, meaning Christ’s mass, the festival celebrating the birth of Christ.
The piles of circulars that make newspapers terribly heavy this time of year don’t focus on the Christ part of Christmas. They’re all about merchandising stuff. It’s part of the trend by merchants, government, and the irreligious to emphasize the festival part of Christmas and de-emphasize the Christ part.
So, for many, Christmas has become all about stuff and good times. Christmas Day activities tend to focus on stuff, meals, watching the Griswold family Christmas movie, football games, naps, etc., not so much on how and when to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
Even well-meaning programs run by religious organizations have bought into the stuff emphasis in the guise of Christian charity. Toys for Tots, Angel Trees, and Adopt-A-Family are examples of programs that want needy children and families to have Christmas stuff just like better off families.
The festival celebrating the birth of Christ is intended be one of worship, to give thanks to God for the birth of his only begotten son and to join in Christian fellowship and sing His praises.
The early church adopted the festival sometime in the fourth century. Celebration of the death of Christ and his baptism came earlier. Some church historians say the celebration of Christ’s birth came about to draw people away from pagan festivals that occurred about the same time – the German yule festival and Celtic solstice legend of Balder are cited at Christianity.com.
Then there was Saturnalia, the pagan festival when Romans feasted and gave gifts to the poor. How familiar that seems today!
With strong forces dimming the true meaning of Christmas, it’s up to churches and families to keep the light ablaze. In addition to church celebrations, caroling, and family worship, how about giving prayer gifts instead of stuff? A beneficiary myself, I know my neighbor, many friends, and family members will benefit far more from such gifts than any stuff I could give them.
So here is a prayer gift to them and to you: Dear Lord, as we celebrate your birth and give thanks to the Father, please let the light of your love, mercy, and grace shine upon us. Grant comfort to those in pain, healing to those in need, and peace to all who seek your blessing. I ask these gifts in Jesus name, amen.