Christmas. The merchants want us to believe that the purchase of their products is a valid expression of the true spirit of the day. The charities want us to believe that a generous gift now, before the IRS gets it, is a valid expression of the true spirit of the day. The family and in-laws all want us to believe that a harmonious get-together is what the day is all about. The kids want us to believe that giving them what they really want is a valid expression of the true spirit of the day. We want to believe that getting what we want is what the day is all about. The schools and churches want us to believe that attending their annual program is what it is all about. And, somewhere out there, there is someone who wants us to believe that we ought to go with them to sing carols in the dark, snowy night--at the nursing home and in the yards of those who cannot get out anymore. The banks are even in on the action: they want us to believe that hocking a sizable chunk of next year's wages is what the season is all about.
What does God want us to believe?
That it's Jesus' birthday. But, what does that mean? Different things for different people. Years ago my wife and I decided that if it was Jesus' birthday, He ought to get the gifts. But, He isn't physically visible on the planet anymore, so we had to figure out what giving to Him might mean. For us it meant some changes. First, we wanted our children to realize that it was His birthday and not theirs. So, we told them we would make a big deal out of their birthdays for them, but His birthday was for Him. So, before their birthdays roll around, we ask them to give us a list of the things they would like to get as gifts in the order they would like to get them. Then we go about getting whatever is on the list until we run up to the total number of dollars that we have decided to spend to make their day special--so they will know they are special to us.
But, on Christmas, we ask them what they want to give to Jesus. That means we have to decide how to give to the invisible God. The first thing we realized is that to give something to someone as a gift meant one thing primarily: the gift ought to be something the Receiver would want. Too many times gift givers give others what they would like to get themselves, or, worse yet, what they think the receiver ought to have. It never seems to enter some people's minds that people really appreciate receiving what they want--not what someone else wants, or what someone else wants them to want. So, what does God want?
Fundamentally, God has told us that He simply wants us. He wants to have our loyalty, love, trust, commitment, and fellowship. So, if we give Him anything else, it won't be what He wants. But, once we have given Him ourselves, there are a lot of other things we can give Him in addition. For instance, Jesus once said, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me". That means that if we want to give Him something He would enjoy, we must give one of His brethren something they would enjoy. It leaves Christmas giving wide open. This Christmas, be creative.