In recent years, I've honestly been a bit baffled by the consumeristic bruhaha that surrounds the Christmas season. I walked into Michael's craft store the other week and Christmas decorations lined the shelves and it was barely after Halloween. I've already seen countless television ads for Holiday sales and jewelry and cars (because all of us can afford to give our loved one a new car for Christmas, right?), and it all leaves me thinking that somehow, somewhere, we got Christmas all wrong. We get lost in the insanity of the season, thinking that it won't be Christmas without the gifts underneath the tree, the mounds of cookies and goodies, or the ten billion cards we are obligated to send out to our third cousins twice removed we've never met (though - I am planning on doing cards this year!! I swear!!)
Really - It won't be Christmas without Christ. That is sort of the point, isn't it? That Christ came down to be with us - Emmanuel - God With Us. God's presence didn't come with fanfare, with loads of presents or important people. God came in the midst of a scandal - an unwed teen mother who nobody would take in giving birth in the least sanitary of places, who then becomes a refugee in the land of Egypt. Not pristine, not perfect and put together...and not consumeristic.
So why do we celebrate Christmas - Christ's Birth Day - with the giving of gifts when this day signifies the greatest gift of all that any one of us could ever hope to unwrap? When ever gift we get pales in comparison to this wonderful inbreaking of God's radical presence here with us on Earth?
This is why I want something different for Christmas. Sure, it would be nice to get gifts. I can think of a whole slew of things that I want, because there's nothing that I really need. I can also think of really thoughtful gifts to get for my friends and family; things I know that they will like and appreciate. But to me, that isn't the point of Christmas anymore. If Christmas is about God's earth-shattering, power-shifting, turning-the-world-upside-down presence with us - in us - then shouldn't we share that presence with others? Shouldn't that be our gift this season - to be with those who need the gift of presence more than anything else?
So my plan is to do this: instead of giving gifts to people I love, I'm going to give them stories instead. Stories about my encounters with people who need a reminder that God loves them. During this holiday season, I hope to maybe play a little Christmas concert at a nursing home. I hope to pray with people at Ruth's House. I hope to help bring Christmas to a family in need. I hope to pay for someone's groceries. I hope to have people over for dinner. I hope to sit with someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
And I'd like these stories in return. Instead of getting gifts from people, I'd rather that they go out and do likewise in their own communities - to share the gift of presence to those who need it most.
This is a joint venture that I am participating in with another couple - Matt and Farrah - who Ben and I will be joining with in this new ministry venture in Haverhill. Watch the video we put together to see even more reasons why we want to give the Gift of Presence this Christmas season. If you are interested, then please - join us!