Have you ever felt the pull between celebrating Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus? You know, the desire to keep Christ at the center of your merriment but at the same time not feel guilty for decorating your Christmas tree, putting up your stockings and exchanging gifts?
We tend to separate Jesus and the “secular” way of celebrating Christmas. Some argue Christians have simply wrapped this pagan day of the year in a Jesus bow (people celebrated December 25 as the birthday of other gods before Emperor Constantine declared it the birthday of Christ). Others grow frustrated that followers of Christ have allowed this celebration to be more about exchanging gifts than about Jesus.
But what if we didn’t need to feel guilty about exchanging gifts? What if it actually aided to our proclamation of Jesus coming to earth as a baby?
From guilt to freedom
Commercialism surely has the corner on Christmas. It’s incredibly easy to spend way too much money on decorations and gifts. Which is why we need to set our minds on why these things are a part of our celebration of the birth of Christ.
For Alice Mills, this has meant transforming her decorations and exchanging of gifts into a reminder of what Jesus did for her and her family. In her article Neurons Ring! Are You Listening? from her website, Poema Chronicles, Alice described how she grew tired of feeling guilty for giving into the commercialism. So she decided to begin celebrating Christmas the way God celebrates.
“Gift-giving is sometimes a little controversial for earnest Christians. … Is Christmas too materialistic? Sure. But God sent three wise men over thousands of miles to give Jesus three expensive gifts. … So I gave magical gifts. Silly gifts. I always gave perfume. That way I hit several neural centers at once. After all, God sent Jesus frankincense and myrrh. I filled stockings with goodies and practical jokes. I made sure each gift was a personal affirmation of each child and for my husband. After all, the gifts Jesus received were prophetic and each revealed an aspect of his purpose.”
How can we go from guilt to freedom when exchanging gifts this Christmas? By remembering these gifts are a reflection of the gifts God gave a little more than two thousand years ago. And by having the mindset that giving Christmas presents to each other doesn’t mean we’re giving into commercialism. It means we’re following God’s lead by showering others with love.
How to give gifts with a free heart
Remembering God’s gifts to His Son is only the first step to finding freedom over commercialism. The next step is letting go of the stress that comes with exchanging gifts. We can easily focus more on the gift itself than on the people involved. We worry about having the right number of gifts and making sure everyone we’re giving to feels like we didn’t spend more on others. If we receive less than someone else, we feel slighted. If we receive too many gifts, we feel awkward.
It’s time to rid ourselves of these guilty feelings and frustrations! In their place, let’s think about how to best love those with whom we’re exchanging gifts. What types of gifts do they appreciate? Tangible things? Events? Gift cards?
Once we put ourselves aside and focus on how we can make the people in our lives feel loved, then we will begin to understand it’s not about the perfect gift and it’s not about just finding something good enough so we can check that off our list.
It’s about reflecting the way God welcomed His Son into this world. It’s about giving and receiving in a way that will affirm those involved that you love them.
Simple and extravagant
Does it sound too simple? It’s because it is, really. We’ve allowed this world to convince us we need flashy gifts, and a lot of them. We’ve also allowed this world to make us think if our gifts aren’t good enough, then we’ll lose out on love from the people in our lives.
But the simple gifts of showing up to worship and the extravagant gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were equally treasured by Mary. Gifts from the poorest of shepherds and from the richest of men. She treasured these gifts because they were all given with hearts that simply wanted to love and adore the baby in the manger.
When we give gifts purely out of the joy that comes with showering others with love, the stress will wash away from our hearts. The joy of giving and receiving will replace the guilt of buying too much or too little.
Let’s focus on reflecting the heart of God this Christmas as we begin exchanging gifts. And pretty soon, others will understand how gifts aren’t commercialism. They’re proclamations of Good News.
Let’s Talk About It: How will you overcome guilty feelings this Christmas?