Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'm SO Over Christmas. And Presents.

PRESENTS. That's what we all look forward to on Christmas. It's the one chance to go overboard and make a wishlist of all the material things you have ever dreamed of possessing and which you didn't get for your birthday. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that 2013 was a bit of an awkward year (since so many thought that the world would end after 2012) but many people I have spoken to this holiday season have expressed a curious exasperation with Christmas. The phrase "I'm so over it," in conversation hasn't been uncommon.

I heard someone jokingly say " I would much rather just buy myself gifts because then I get exactly what I want."

While another guy asked me "What is the point? You buy gifts, you give them, you open them, next day it's like nothing happened."

I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine musing whether there is any point in wrapping presents, doesn't it just waste time, energy and money? In my family especially, as my parents sincerely dislike shopping, we try spend as little time doing it as possible. On Sunday we went to Canal Walk and did the gift shopping before lunch and the grocery shopping afterwards, altogether amounting to about five hours. Today was used to wrap all those hastily bought presents, and tomorrow evening we open them. They stay in their wrapping less than 24 hours and except for Ester, we aren't the 'keep it pretty and recycle after use' category of unwrappers (Imagine paper shreds eeeverywhere.)

It is scary how quickly we forget how special Christmas really is. All the busyness around presents, decorations, family meals and Christmas carols takes the focus away from where it should be.  No wonder buying presents starts seeming dull, all the season’s festivity seems meaningless and the words of the Christmas carols sound empty.  

Sometimes it takes a fictional story to open our eyes to the amazingness of that true factual one. I found one on December 24th last year in a Finnish storybook that had been taken out of the Christmas storage box.

In the story young Sarah finds a letter for Santa from a girl in the poorer part of town, that Santa obviously had missed, and it's the day before Christmas! So she sets out to his workshop to deliver it personally, to make sure he gets it and the girl can have a happy Christmas. She arrives at the big mountain and explains the situation to the stereotypically happy and vibrant Mr. Claus in his brightly lit workshop brimming with toys. However, when she hands him the letter his expression changes to a little less trademark Christmas Cheer as he tells her this girl's letter is not meant for him but his brother. They go around to the mountain's other side and find a very different looking Santa. He is scrawny and sad looking with only cobwebs, dust and a few measly efforts covering the shelves in the cold, poorly lit workshop. 

They explain that there is a different Santa Claus for the wealthy children and the poor children. And while the one Santa can easily make presents for the wealthy children, the other Santa has nothing to give from. Sarah asks why the happy Santa can't help his brother out, and he replies "I can't, each gift in my workshop is already meant for someone. The only way I could give them to him is if the children themselves choose to give their gifts to someone else."
The sad Santa takes the letter and looks around at his workshop helplessly, "another year filled with disappointment," he shakes his head, defeated.

Sarah returns home, and on her way she is thinking. She receives a lot of presents from Santa; she saw some of them in the workshop. She knows a lot of her friends do too. Maybe she could give some of them to the kids in the poor area. Maybe if she explained the situation to her friends they would do it too.

And so Sarah goes around to her friends, telling them what she saw, and something amazing happens. All through the night letters pour in to wealthy Santa Claus from the children, letters like Sarah's who asks him to please give her porcelain doll (the one she had been waiting for excitedly for almost the whole year,) to the girl who's letter she brought to him earlier that evening. Poor Santa Claus has more presents than he has ever had before and the kids in the poor district have a Christmas to remember, all because of Sarah and her idea to give of what she had. At the end of the story Sarah marvels at the idea that by next year they'll have told even more people about the two different Santas, so just imagine, the workshop of poor Santa Claus might be even fuller than his brother's!

This story really struck a chord with me. For many of those children who gave up their presents this would probably be their first year ever that they don’t get everything they wanted for Christmas. And that was OK. They willingly sacrificed their own pleasure for others. And these are only children, probably under twelve years of age! Sarah knew what it was like to get good presents and she wanted everyone to be able to experience it. And through making her Christmas a little less comfortable, she probably had the best Christmas ever.

In the real world, how many people do you know who would sacrifice their own comfort, especially on a day like Christmas, for others? If only more of us would have the same revelation Sarah had, what a difference we could make in people’s lives!

Sarah knew what it was like to get good presents and she wanted everyone to be able to experience it. We know what it is like to get a good present. That is the reason we celebrate Christmas. God came down to earth in a human form, so we could never again say that he doesn’t understand what we are going through. He came to make a way for us to be with Him. He died for our sins, the evil in us which separates us from him, and gave us the gift of Eternal Life.

Have you ever had that when you come up with a brilliant idea of what to get someone as a gift, but when you give it to them they (after profuse thanking especially if they’re South African) start apologizing for not getting you anything. Even though you try explain that it’s “sooo chilled” and your reason for buying it wasn’t so they’d get you something back, the next time you see them they've gone and bought something for you. Leaves you with mixed feelings doesn’t it? Often it makes me feel like the gift I gave loses value because they’ve tried to repay it.

Well, with the gift of Eternal Life, you can never repay it. It is HUGE. And God doesn’t expect us to. He just wants you to accept it. Imagine buying (or making if you’re that talented) someone an expensive and meaningful gift, and they say “Oh no, I don’t want to take that.” Awkward situation, right! “Umm, I got it for you, there’s nothing much I can do with it, it’s especially just for you.” It’s like that with God too. He went through all of that, being human, dying on a cross, so that you could be with Him. That is the greatest gift ever given.

When you give and receive gifts this Christmas, don’t look at them just as material things. Look deeper! It’s not an obligation to give. It’s a choice. You get to bless others, you get to remind each other of the greatest gift of all that started on this special day over 2000 years ago, the gift of Eternal Life, the end of death! Sarah had received good gifts and she wanted to pass that experience on. We have received Eternal Life as a gift and the best thing we can do with that is accept it and share it, it’s meant for everyone!

John 3.16
For God so loved the world that he sent his only son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

If you haven’t accepted the gift of Eternal Life yet, it is so easy!

Paul says in Romans 10.9 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your Heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You can pray something along these lines,
“Dear God,I believe in you. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent Jesus to Earth to die for my sins. Thank you that I can live eternally with you. I want to follow you. I want to accept this gift of forgiveness and life! ”

And I encourage you to go read the book of John!

Merry Christmas ^_^

No comments:

Post a Comment