The most common way of getting ready for Christmas seems to be buying presents. At least, that’s the question I’ve been hearing since sometime in November: “Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?” By that standard, I’m not ready yet, but I’ll finish what little shopping I need to do on Wednesday.
When I was driving downtown to the Elves Workshop (a Christmas arts & crafts activity for kids, sponsored by the local parks & rec dept), I noticed the message on the sign outside the Vineyard church: “Raise your hand if it’s your birthday.” I can only assume that it is supposed to be a reminder that it’s Jesus’ birthday we’re getting ready to celebrate, not our own, and the gifts we are preparing to give should reflect that.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with giving gifts to each other on someone’s birthday, instead of giving all the gifts to the “birthday person.” Not all cultures celebrate birthdays the same way, and giving gifts is a legitimate part of a joyful celebration. But of course the celebration should still be the main focus, not the gifts.
Preparing to share these thoughts with my son Al, I tried to think of what kind of gifts we can give Jesus for His birthday, before asking Al for his suggestions. One good discussion of this points to giving our time as one of the best gifts we can give Jesus. I was expecting this to be about giving time in acts of service, but instead it was about spending time with Jesus, developing our relationship with Him. This is always a struggle for me, so I need to think about how I can give the gift of my time to Jesus.
The main way I usually think of giving to Jesus is to give to those in need. In discussions on this topic at worldmagblog, someone usually points out that Jesus talked about “the least of these my brothers,” meaning fellow believers. I don’t know whether that interpretation is correct or not, but I’m sure Jesus is pleased both when we help others in our faith communities and when we help people in great need regardless of their own relationship to Jesus.
There are a number of great organizations to give to. Heifer International, Samaritan’s Purse, and the Salvation Army are usually at the top of the list of organizations I trust to use donations effectively to help people in need. This year, I’ve added Water for Christmas and charity:water. And of course, they all need support throughout the year, not just at Christmas.