The best Christmas gift that I ever bought my parents happened to have been on sale. I was about five years old at the time and had my allowance safely in my pocket. My Mom didn’t drive, so she and I were dropped off downtown so that we could spend several hours shopping. I saw it as soon as we entered Woolworth, the first store on our list. There was this table stacked with punch bowl sets. They were beautiful! This was a Princess 18-piece Crystal Punch Set by the Indiana Glass Company. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the sales price and realized that I could afford to buy one. My five-year old mind was convinced that I had to buy it right away, before they sold out. What could possibly go wrong with this plan?
Did I mention how awkward and heavy this punch bowl set was for a little kid to carry? Since we were dropped off, there was no car to take it to. Because it was a gift for my Mom and Dad, I refused to let my Mom carry it. I didn’t want her to see what was in the bag. This was a very long day for little me, and I was exhausted by the time we got home. My Mom and Dad ended up treasuring this punch bowl set for the rest of their lives. This had absolutely nothing to do with the monetary value of the punch bowl, and everything to do with the love of a little boy. After they both died, I inherited the punch bowl. Somehow in the last five decades one of the cups went missing, but other than that it seems to be in good shape. Who would have ever guessed that a punch bowl would have so much meaning in my family?
I admit that I love buying, making, and giving Christmas gifts. All year long I keep my eyes open for just the right gifts. The gifts don’t have to be expensive, and some of them that I make are mostly about an investment of time. This is one more great opportunity to let people know that I love them. We never know who is aching to hear this message, or whose heart will be touched.
For me, Christmas is a story of God’s love for each of us. One of my favorite things to do as the pastor of a church is children’s time during Advent. Each week I would have the children add more pieces into the nativity scene while I added to the Christmas story. In the services on Christmas Eve I would pick a child to bring baby Jesus forward and put him into the manger in the nativity scene. Every single child over the decades has done this with great reverence.
How many people in our society are aching to know that God loves them? As Mary laid Jesus into the manger, she knew the gift that God had sent into the world. Who would have guessed that the hope of the world would come in the form of a little baby? While the world focused on building better weapons and stronger armies, Jesus grew up sharing the absolute power of God’s love. This is a gift that can be shared even if a person doesn’t have any money.
I hear many people who say that it is too much trouble—and too stressful—to give Christmas gifts. If we are just trying to give better “things”, I expect that they are right. My desire, though, is that we will constantly look for creative ways to let people know that we love them, and that God loves them even more. This is the kind of gift that I hope we will never get tired of giving! It is appropriate to give this type of gift all year long, and not just on December twenty-fifth.
May you have a very merry Christmas filled with God’s love and hope!
Your brother on the journey, Mark
A further thought: This will be the last “Mark’s Musings” for 2018. My next article is scheduled to be published on January 8, 2019. How is it possible that 2019 is almost here?!? I’m looking forward to God’s plans for the new year!