This Christmas, blessings will be counted in different ways. And that may be the very best gift of all. With an economic repression officially upon us, our typically abundant holiday season has gone the way of manger scenes in chain stores and Christmas trees in schools. With the focus this Christmas less on material things and more on faith and family, we will once again remember the true joy of Christmas.
Jesus Christ was easily the best gift this world has ever scene. His birth and death freed believers from the burden of sin – past, present, and future. This life is difficult enough as it is and without Christ’s gift of forgiveness, times like these would darn near be impossible to navigate. Thankfully though, Christ was given to this world to release it from its very evils - one of which is our obsession with possessions.
Somewhere along the way Christmas became a Hollywood holiday. It became about gifts and gadgets instead of faith and family. Christmas lost its real meaning when we became enamored with the idea of presents. The day became about giving and getting the perfect present and counting our blessings based on the things we own. It has warped into a season of stress – both financial and emotional – and has brought billions of people around the world more strain and loneliness than any other day of the year. How sad that we have taken the greatest gift of all and either turned it into, or let it be turned into, a burden on ourselves, our faith, and our families.
The birth of Christ occurred during a time of economic unrest. Ironically, Mary and Joseph faced many of the same problems that so many Americans are facing today. Housing, travel, and work situations were cause for fear and frustration then, just as they are now. Frills were not just missing; they were nowhere to be found. And this allowed them to maintain a focus on their faith that was uninterrupted by unnecessary distractions.
Today not only are millions of Americans dealing with foreclosure, being fired and fretting about the future but many are also dealing with illnesses such as diabetes, breast cancer and other forms of cancer, heart disease and depression to name a few. Depression is most prevalent this time of year as some are suffering from loneliness, mourning loved ones that have made the transition or feeling remorseful because they cannot afford to buy gifts for their families. Whatever your situation is this holiday season, please remember we can't take tomorrow for granted and must be thankful for the present. As Christmas nears, these troubles may be the very thing that we need to get us refocused on the real purpose of Christmas. Without the expectations and burden of giving the latest and greatest toys to our friends and family, we are free to give of ourselves. This may mean giving a handmade gift, a cup of coffee, or a long walk. Or it may entail reaching out to someone we’ve lost touch with, forgiving a foe, or lending a hand to someone in need. Whatever it means for you, I guarantee a gift given from the heart will be more fruitful for you and more valuable for them.
Look, I understand Christmas in America will never be just about Jesus. But our goal needs to be that it centers on Him. And this year, with less money in our pocketbook and more debt on our credit cards, our Christmas can be filled with more blessings than ever before. But in order for this to be the case, we need to embrace the basic, simple truths of Christmas and use this toned-down holiday season to embrace what is most important in our lives. Without some of the typical Christmas distractions this year – giving and getting the best gifts - we can honestly do what we’ve always wanted to do: forget about the Hollywood in the day and focus on the Heavenly. When we do this - even if it’s because we are forced financially to do so – we will feel the freedom of forgiveness that comes with Christ’s birth and death. Then we will begin to understand and embrace the true purpose of Christmas.