The 5 best things to give this Christmas
Christmas is the best and worst time of the year. Few other times stir up such different responses, depending on who we are and what’s going on with us. If life is sweet and you’re all set to celebrate Christmas with loved ones, then the annual day of hooraying Jesus’s birth should be a cracker. But if your life is the opposite of sweet, Christmas probably just makes you want to scream, cry, hide or worse.
This year, let’s all have a go at giving some gifts which aim to do more than increase your brother’s music collection or your daughter’s wardrobe of Frozen outfits. How about we take a look around us and see who we could bless this Christmas with something that goes beneath the surface? Let’s give a gift that will keep on giving, particularly to someone suffering or struggling.
Christmas is, officially, a HAPPY time of year. Right? So, if you are not HAPPY at this time of year, does it help being told that you should be HAPPY? Probably not. In fact, our efforts to cheer others up at Christmas can backfire (even when we have good intentions). Whether it is throwing a few Bible sentences at someone or telling them “you’ll be right”, we can be insensitive or patronising or too simplistic about what our hurting, stressed or angry friend is going through. Maybe this Christmas is a time to “go easy” on someone you know who is doing it tough. Maybe they are newly divorced, or their parent just died. They might be really sick or in deep despair because their ATAR was disappointing. Whatever is going on with them, pray for wisdom about how to “go easy” — rather than merrily telling them to “don’t worry, be HAPPY”.
Hopefully, you will be sharing Christmas with family and friends, and your relationship with them is going nicely. But you might be in the opposite space, far from loved ones and only feeling alone, isolated, angry or depressed. Or all of those things. What I’m about to suggest sounds obvious but, you know, sometimes we need to be reminded that the simple things are the best – and necessary. So, if we know of family or friends who could do with our friendship, will we make the effort to give it? I have no idea how you feel towards that lonely, distant friend of yours, or what has gone on between the two of you. But as you cheer about Jesus coming into our messed-up world to offer forgiveness and relationship with God, how about holding out forgiveness or relationship to someone who needs it?
God didn’t just send a tweet or put up a billboard about Jesus. He sent Jesus into the world, as a real person. Not a Star Wars hologram. Not an Instagram snapshot. A person, who connected intimately with people and made a difference in their lives by actually being in their lives. This Christmas, how are we working hard to make contact — deep, meaningful contact — with people? I’m probably going to send a bulk “Merry Christmas blah blah blah” text message on December 25, and might tap out something on Facebook. That’s it. Yeah, I know. Lame. So, um, maybe I could put my phone down, switch off apps, and try harder to reach out to those around me.
At Christmas, most people are pretty great at giving. I don’t know too many Scrooges, and I hope you don’t either. But as we fill stockings and car-boots with presents, how generous are we actually being? I’m not talking about how much you or I spend. Whether we shell out bazillions or only a few bucks, that’s not the best indication of our generosity. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) Are we giving cheerfully, without reluctance or obligation? And are we cheerfully giving till it hurts, spurred on by the example God set when he gave Jesus to our sinful world, knowing full well the shocking death he would suffer? Sure, none of us our called to go to those exact extremes of generosity… but what can we hand over, or hand out, that will push our generosity to the limits?
You might be feeling about one million miles away from joy. But I still hope that somewhere inside you, the good news of a guy called Jesus stirs some ember of joy, even if it’s just a flicker. Not because I’m trying to tell you that you should instantly forget your problems and worries as soon as Jesus is mentioned. I’m just trying to point out something incredible that you might not be able to see, right at this moment. The incredible thing is that if you or I have even a hint of the joy that Jesus has to offer, that’s a small taste of something we’re sure to want more of. And… there’s much more where that joy came from, to help get us through even the most painful and turbulent times. Like Christmas.
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