How sad and how did we end up down this road of Christmas shopping being our most worshipped seasonal god?
As far as I know it began with the Magi, better known in pop culture as the the Three Wise Men, although it may have been three hundred wise men in that caravan to Bethlehem. Scripture never places a number on them.
Out of that rather odd assortments to a baby out modern tradition of gift-giving evolved. Now buying and giving gifts has eclipse most everything associated with Christmas. We got to have a good gift, too. Look at that poor shepherd boy fretting over not having a gift worthy to give a king. Actually, other than the wise men, I don't recall anyone else heading down to the stable with gifts in hand. And when the Magi arrived, perhaps two years after the birth, they didn't take their gifts to a stable either. Joseph and mary were living in a house when they showed up.
The gifts of frankincense and myrrh were hardly what you or I would present a child, ointments for burial. But this was a gift pointing to the future. The gold probably financed Joseph and Mary's flight into Egypt to keep the child safe from Herod. I don't know what they would have done with a Chia Pet, Snuggie or what-ever the gimmicky gift of 2012 might be. At any rate, they didn't give presents to each other, they gave them to Christ.
Last week as we drove up to Toms River to do hurricane relief we passed a church. Its sign read, "Christmas is not your birthday!"
But you know what? It could be.
Why has Christmas been celebrated with such joy all these centuries? It hasn't been because of the gifts we hand each other every December 25, it hasn't been the visit from Jolly Ol' St. Nick or the singing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
It's been because of the gift given, not by the Magi, but by God. It is the gift of the babe in the manger, a child given to die horribly so we could live eternally.
I have nothing against the exchanging of gifts if given out of love for those we give to and not with expectations we will be glorified for what we gave. Nor should we give with any expectation to be given in return. But after we have unwrapped all these worldly treasures that by next year will be lost, broken or forgotten we should seek the gift that all of this should represent. That gift of salvation given to the world on that first Christmas Day.
There is nothing else of such value.
Have a blessed, merry, happy, peaceful Christmas!
Top Illustration: Adoration of the Magi by Mattias Stomer