Because of my faith-tradition, I always want to study the story of the first Christmas from Luke when I think about Christmas traditions and gifts. The old adage “the only certain things are death and taxes” apply to that first Christmas. The Bible tells us that the Roman Emperor, Augustus, ordered a census for tax purposes for those persons in Judea. The census was taken at the home places of the ancient lineages of the Jewish people. So it came to pass that the first Christmas was observed in Bethlehem. The first Christmas gift was the Baby Jesus, and it was accompanied by a display of heavenly glory. The gift was first made known to social outcasts, the shepherds, and Emmanuel was born in a stable area.
Let’s move forward 2,013 years to Dacula. We celebrate Christmas with man-made spectacles, brilliantly lighted Christmas trees and other sparkling decorations. We exchange gifts in remembrance of the First Gift. And I question if we have forgotten the wonder of the first Christmas?
What kind of gifts do we exchange at Christmas now? For the fashionistas, a perfect gift might be perfumes or colognes, or a new dress, or a fashionably chic boa, or a new pair of shoes, or even a best-selling book.
For those who are into giving home-made gifts, a proper gift might be a fruit cake (did I really write that), or a juicy pie. Perhaps, jarred vegetables, or pickles might be more appropriate. For those with the skills, a knitted scarf or a crocheted afghan could be a great gift. Maybe you could write a poem for your loved ones like The Night Before Christmas.
Our children expect gifts at Christmas. Just don’t give them underwear! Some age-appropriate gifts might be electronic in nature, like computers, games, game-boxes, or teddy bears, puzzles, and dolls. Don’t forget the old stand-bys such as bikes and trikes. Just don’t give them underwear—fancy name brand clothes might be ok—but even that is a close call!
Thinking out of the box a little, let’s consider a couple of gifts that might seem strange. A gift for your teen-agers might be a trip with parents to work in a food pantry during the holidays. Not everyone is going to have a place to call home on Christmas nor the money to buy food for a traditional holiday feast. The gift of experiencing that reality is important for our kids—and our parents.
Another gift I thought about as I read Luke’s story, how about a dark-night’s trip into the lawn, away from all the lighting you can get, to look up at the sky and marvel at the “heavenly host” of stars? We often don’t even look up any more. If we do, are we astounded at the heavens?
Lasting gifts are the gifts we should be giving each other—a kind word, a helping hand, a good thought, an expressive “thank you.” The lasting gifts from the first Christmas are “Glory to God in the highest” and the potential for peace among mankind. That ought to be the goal of our giving no matter what our faith tradition—gifts that really matter.
I hope each of you has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014!