A Present-less Christmas
At Christmas time most everyone tends to give gifts, regardless of race, religion, or any myriad of factors that distinguish one from another. Ironic, since even those who deny the reality of Jesus participate, lest they be accused of imitating Ebenezer Scrooge.
While much of this has little to do with the Savior whose birth we celebrate, the orbit of American culture can make us think that unless we can give and receive presents, we are deprived, poverty-stricken, or in some other way deficient.
No Presents Under the Tree
That’s the way I felt more than three decades ago—32 years to be exact—when we faced our first Christmas with nothing to put under the tree. In fact, we may have not had a tree; funny that now I don’t remember exactly, but things were pretty bleak.
That December marked the end of my first year in business for myself. It started quite slow, gradually increased, and then sank back down. About a month before Christmas, a group from our church showed up one day with a welcome surprise: bags of groceries.
The day before Thanksgiving, my stepson had gone to jail for violating his probation, strutting across the courtroom with an earring in one ear and acting like he didn’t have a care in the world. To say our morale reached rock bottom that Christmas would be an understatement.
Looking back, I can assure you it wasn’t a pleasant experience. And yet, in going through such tough times we learn a lot about our pride (like having too much) and that there literally are things more important than things.
I’m proof that you can get up on Christmas morning with nothing to unwrap and live to see another day. Now that it’s been a decade of Christmases since my second-oldest stepdaughter died, I can assure you I would trade every holiday trinket ever produced to able to have Christmas dinner again at her house.
I also learned that, no matter how bad I think I have it, there are a host of people with bigger problems. Take that Christmas, when the county jail relaxed its normally-rigid visitation schedule. My stepson, who appeared so cocky a month before, felt even lower than we did. Suddenly freedom looked pretty good. So did dinner later that day at home, even if it wasn’t as fancy as I might have liked.
The biggest irony of reflecting on that bleak Christmas is the fact that my wife and I voluntarily stopped giving each other Christmas gifts some time afterward. It’s been so long ago that I can’t remember when. We realized that we didn’t need to get each other presents to prove that we love each other, nor did we need anything.
A number of years ago our ever-growing family downsized as well, scrapping our one-per-person gift exchange and donating the money to needy families.
This doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate the birth of Christ. Several years ago I decided that it was foolish to let people who are upset over holiday commercialization, or retailers who won’t wish them a Merry Christmas to influence my attitude.
I truly don’t care that others don’t focus on the right thing, spend themselves into oblivion, or treat Christmas like merely a winter vacation. I can’t change what they do—just appreciate how I’ve learned that gifts and glitter will never satisfy like the Savior whose birth is the reason for the season. Merry Christmas!