There is a reason.
- It’s why people smile while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, as if they don’t know they’re wearing an ugly Christmas sweater (even though we know they absolutely do).
- It’s why someone feels the permission to smooch you under a certain configuration of dried leaves hanging on the ceiling.
- It’s why families drive around neighborhoods, aimlessly looking at how someone else arranged the same lights they arranged on their own home in a lesser quantity.
- It’s why an old guy with a white beard can earn some extra money by dressing up in a specific red suit this season.
- It’s why you do your best Michael Bublé impression as he does his best Frank Sinatra impression, while singing Christmas songs you only know half the words to.
Some would say it’s the reason for the season… Jesus Christ.
Let’s be honest, though. The holiday of Christmas is more about presents.
(Yes, I just said that. It’s about time you did, too.)
Christmas is about presents. Stuff. More of what we want. Our traditions, favorite songs, special treats and preferred circumstances.
Even if we’re “open minded” and muse, “People celebrate differently during this time of year, and I’m fine with that,” we get a little wound up when we’re not able to spend this time as we think we’re entitled to.
If you can agree with me on this for a moment (even if it offends you), then perhaps we can talk about the power of a gift.
I recently took my ten-year old son on a trip to Chicago. Our stops included heading to the top of the Willis Tower, also known as the Sears Tower. (You can still call it the Sears Tower if you want, but most Chicagoans will use it as the chance to say, “What you talkin’ bout, Willis?”)
I’ve never been in the building before.
Keep in mind, I grew up and lived in Chicago for twenty years. Nonetheless, I’d never entered it nor rode the elevator up to see the city from a top floor in one of the world’s tallest buildings. I shared that first-time experience with my son.
What caught me off guard was how caught off guard he was about hearing that. He asked, “You mean… you saved that experience for me?”
I paused, then replied, “I suppose I did.”
He paused, then replied, “Well… that makes me feel special.”
Talk about a Hallmark commercial moment. I never felt like I’d done something so right, yet so unintentional.
Later at dinner, we had another conversation about other experiences we should save in life, like certain things that are intended for the woman he might marry one day.
The Willis Tower offered something else amazing we took part in together. The building has four completely-clear glass viewing decks that come out of the building four feet so you can look straight down while standing 1,353 feet high, as if you’re dangling in mid-air.
My son was a trooper on this. He walked right out, even laying down and relaxing on the platform.
And why not? He’s full of the kind of faith many of us have forgotten about or don’t even know exists. He trusted in his father to look out for him and introduce him into situations that he couldn’t handle on his own, but could with me by his side.
I believe that’s why Christmas has become about presents. Underneath all the wrapping paper is a desire to give something to someone else that’s meaningful to us and them.
- Sometimes you give the perfect gift on accident: You offer someone something you thought would be received at one level but is enjoyed at another.
- Sometimes you give the perfect gift out of relationship: You give the gift of genuine trust to another person where there is mutual love and respect.
- Sometimes you give an imperfect gift that you thought was the perfect gift: The person who gets it will have to decide if they’ll receive it in grace or reject it as unwanted.
During the Christmas season, people give tangible things that create an intangible reaction. If you think about it, that’s exactly who the Baby in the Manger is – God in-the-flesh so you can know Him in-the-soul.
Yes, Christmas is really about the Present of Jesus Christ. What I’m proposing is we can use the natural thing this holiday has decayed into as a step of faith to the supernatural thing it is under the surface.
James 1:17 clarifies, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV)
There is a reason.
- It’s the reason you’ll be generous with what you can see by donating something to “the poor” you’ll never see.
- It’s the reason you’ll join into tactile traditions today that remind you of emotional experiences from the past.
- It’s the reason you’ll be physically sitting in church service to spiritually connect with your Heavenly Father.
- It’s the reason you’ll even give up some of that in order to enjoy some extra time with students who need to sense God is there through your life… especially when you actually put on that imperfect, ugly Christmas sweater they give you.
Step out in faith on the ledge of what Christmas happens to be today… then look down. You just might see something underneath you that is deeper than you think.
Thank you for loving students!
*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*