Monday, December 24, 2012

Appreciating Christ, Our Christmas Present

Heads up, this has nothing to do with writing, but what I consider to be the real reason for the Christmas Season: Our Lord Jesus Christ. And, yes, I do get preachy. You've been warned.

I've been reflecting on the spirit of Christmas gift giving. I'm horrified as I remember an experience as a teenager many years ago. One Christmas there was something I wanted. I have no recollection what it was, but my parents were not well off and it would have been a huge sacrifice for them. If they could have, they would have, but they were not in a position to make it happen. By Christmas morning I knew I wasn't going to get whatever gift I felt entitled to.

So what did I do? I disrespected my parents every time I opened a present they gave me. I would chafe, scoff, or make a snide remark with every unwrapping I did. "Yeah, gee, thanks," I would comment full of angst before tossing a present to the side like I was just handed their credit card bill. 

I think that year, I ruined Christmas for my entire family with my attitude of ingratitude and self-importance. It is something I look back on in shame. It hurts to even type this. I think the Grinch himself would have been appalled BEFORE his heart grew. I wish I could time travel to that teenager and kick him in the butt!
Now for the opposite side of the spectrum. About eight years ago I bought my son a dog. It was a gift that he had been wanting for a long time and I was finally in a position to get one for him. 

What has he done with this gift? Everything! He baths him. He feeds him. He showers him with attention -- sometimes, too much attention. He pets him. He takes him on walks. He gives him treats, but not too many to make him sick. He taught him to sit. And stay. And not eat food is isn't supposed to. When he has ran off, my son would be the first out looking for him. Without a doubt, he appreciates this gift, and he shows it continually. And it warms my heart when I see him taking care of his dog like he is my son's own child.

Over 2,000 years ago, the world received a gift. In a little town outside Jerusalem called Bethlehem, the Savior of the world was born. This was a gift from God. THE Gift from God. A gift of comfort, peace, love, and hope. The gift of promise that we can overcome spiritual and temporal death and live with God again some day. The gift of forgiveness and grace. The gift that truly keeps on giving. The first Christmas gift ever given.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3: 16
Which raises the question, how have we received this gift? Have we cast it aside in disgust, or have we treated it like the precious gift it is? Have we wrinkled our nose at it or have we embraced it and showered it with eternal appreciation?
How can we show appreciation for this gift? In a word, love. Show love and compassion toward God, your family, your neighbors, and yourself. Jesus is a perfect personification of love as everything he did showed the love he held for all of mankind. He cared for and healed the poor. He constantly had and showed compassion for everybody around him. He sacrificed himself so the atonement could be active in our lives. He suffered more than any man, but did not shrink from drinking the cup that was given him. While we can never express love as deeply as the Lord, it shouldn't hold us back from showing love as much as we can.
"Jesus said unto them, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." - Matthew 22: 37-40
And how do we show love and appreciation for this gift from God?
"If ye love me, keep my commandments." -John 14: 15
I hope everybody has a safe and merry Christmas. If you are travelling, get to and from your destinations in safety. If you see loved ones, embrace them and enjoy the time you have around them. And, above all else, keep love in your heart, for love is the spirit of Christ and Christ is the true reason for the Christmas season.