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Getting and Giving this Christmas

December 24, 2018

Wow, do I remember Christmas as a child? While many do not get to celebrate Christmas the way I did, I was one of those fortunate ones. With much hard work, determination, and the blessing of God, my parents experienced the American dream in the 1950s. Christmas for my family and me was giving on steroids. The tree, the decorations, the love, the Christian upbringing (there’s nothing like a Christmas Eve service at a large Anglican or Episcopalian church) and the giving of gifts, made Christmas amazing.

What I remember most was all the presents under the tree. When I look at my grandchildren now on Christmas, I see myself back then. “Dude, it’s a gift harvest...to the attack!” The message I understood at that age was, “It’s like my birthday…no…it’s even better than my birthday…it’s Christmas…it’s my birthday magnified.” Those gifts were all for me. Christmas became a better birthday for me than my birthday.

Another crucial aspect of my Christmases was that I wasn’t forgotten. My parents remembered me. My relatives remembered me. When someone special missed giving me my present for Christmas, I would feel hurt, “They didn’t remember me.” I imagine what is most hurtful to many who don’t have a Christmas adventure like I had, was not the presents. It was that it seemed to them like no one remembers them.

I don’t apologize for the Christmases I experienced. I didn’t earn it, I didn’t deserve it, I didn’t work for it, I just received it. I wish everyone could have experienced what I did on Christmas.

When I became a real Christian at the age of twenty-four, I began to understand Christmas. Firstly, I realized it’s not my birthday. All of that giving was not about me, it was about Christ. Giving was what I needed to focus on, not getting. I just posted a FaceBook message saying: “If getting gifts is the center of your Christmas, Jesus never will be. Dude, it's not your birthday.” I got the first sentence from Pastor Ashley Wooldridge. Aha!

Secondly, I realized God didn’t forget. God remembered all the promises He made to His people. Promises made seven hundred years before they were fulfilled. Promises such as in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel, which means God with us.” Another promise in Micah 5:2, “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a ruler, who will shepherd My people Israel.”

Here is a writing entitled God Didn’t Forget by Craig Lounsbrough. “The beauty of Christmas is that God didn't forget. Not now. Not ever. Despite man's incessant proclivity to forget God, God never forgot man. Despite man's demands for a faith that excluded God, God never forgot. Christmas is God remembering. Christmas is God's refusal to forget. Christmas is God's declaration that He will never forget. Christmas was God deliberately placing Himself squarely in the middle of humanity when that very same humanity sought to remove Him squarely from the middle of everything by any means possible. Christmas is God's greatest gift ever given to mankind despite the thoughtless abuses of mankind in their mad march to forget. Christmas is God's staunch refusal to forget, and it is His forever commitment to forgive.”

Maybe it's time we don't forget the real Christmas. Advent is a daily reminder each December to remember why we celebrate Christmas. It’s about giving. God even sent Magi from the east a year later to give gifts to Jesus. When the Magi arrived, “They open their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11.

God remembered Jesus. Christmas is more about giving gifts than getting gifts. God did it. The Magi did it. And now you and I can do it.

This Christmas the best gift you can give God is you! Then give a gift to someone less fortunate who really needs to be remembered. It’s not the gift that matters, they matter. They were remembered. God didn’t forget and neither did you. Merry Christmas.

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
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