Christmas lists pose a problem for many of us, but the problems vary according to our age. When we are very little it doesn’t matter what we get for Christmas; we are probably going to find the wrapping paper and the box much more interesting. Sooner or later we catch on to making a list for Santa Claus. The taller we grow, the longer list. There comes a time when the gifts become more expensive and the list accordingly shorter. But for many of us there is a break point when it becomes increasingly difficult to think of anything we really want for Christmas.
Many adults are notoriously difficult to purchase Christmas gifts for. One of the more irritating ads banks on this underlying difficulty. Outside the home in the drive sits an expensive luxury car with a large ribbon on top of it. The neighbors sit in lawn chairs across the street to witness the coming celebration. The husband leads his blindfolded wife out to the front door of the house and removes the blindfold from her eyes as she beholds with joy the marvelous gift. In our family we have noted that if either of us were to spend that kind of money on a gift without consulting the other there would be serious consequences. Then again, our discretionary cash doesn’t register in the tens of thousands, so maybe we are just in the wrong demographic group to appreciate the ad.
The first Christmas came to a very specific demographic group. What demographic group are you in? Christmas is the story of the Incarnation; the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient God was born a babe to a Jewish craftsman named Joseph and his wife Mary. The Roman census had required that they move from their home in Nazareth of Galilee to Bethlehem of Judah. It is probable that the only thing they actually owned was Joseph’s carpentry tools. The infant Christ was born in a stable. When the Wise men appear, perhaps as much as well over a year later, they bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. What happened to those expensive gifts? The probability is that Joseph and Mary sold them in the market in Bethlehem and that the proceeds eventually helped fund the flight to Egypt.
We should bear in mind that there was no middle class in Judah at the time of the birth of Christ. There were the wealthy, there were the desperately poor; but the majority of people were farmers, fisherman, craftsmen, small tradesmen, and others who fit into the broader group of what we would call working class people. To put it most simply; Jesus was born into a blue-collar family. There was food on the table, but no Lexus in the driveway.
So what is the problem when somebody asks us what we want for Christmas? It often is revealed in a simple dynamic. My mouse pad on my laptop has been creating all kinds of small difficulties when I work on tasks like writing a newsletter. Someone points out that what would help is a wireless mouse. Do I put it on a Christmas gift list? No! If I need it, and at the moment the family budget will stand it, I go and buy myself a wireless mouse. What do I want for Christmas? Most of us adults are like Dumbledore the Wizard. When he looks into the mirror of Erised (“Desire” spelled backwards) his fondest hope is revealed. The one thing he says he wants is a really warm pair of socks. The things we actually want to are so mundane it’s often hard to think of them. For us one of the great joys of Christmas is what we give rather than what we receive.
There is another side to this. For a long time I have known with my heart that Christmas isn’t about getting and giving gifts, but about having already received the One Christmas Gift that far outshines all other gifts. The gift that has thrilled my heart is the Gift of God’s love, and in that most precious gift, the gift of receiving with an open heart gift of love that comes through my family and friends. That Gift is not abstract, but concrete in the person of Jesus Christ my Savior, my Wonderful Counselor, my Mighty God, my Everlasting Father, my Prince of Peace. Jesus came to “save his people from their sins,” not just his people, but me myself as one of his people, a sinner in the midst of other sinners, no better, no worse, but loved like all the rest. What an incredible gift it is to be received by God, to be accepted, to be forgiven, to be adopted, to become part of the family God present now, and extending through the centuries. It is the gift of belonging.
What Do You Really Want For Christmas?