Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Joy of Getting

I wrote this as part of a blog post near the beginning of September last year.  I was thinking about it and wanted to share it again:

So what is the main reason why I love Christmas? Is it the music? Is it the food? Is it the weather (I actually hate cold and snow, unless it's at Christmas!)? Is it the movies? Is it something I inherited from my grandmother, who LOVED Christmas and celebrated it all year long?

What's the Sunday School answer here? What am I supposed to say? I'm supposed to say, "I love Christmas because it's Jesus' birthday!" But...that's not the main reason why I love Christmas. Why? I guess it's because I'm selfish.

When I was about four years old, my mom told me something I never forgot. She probably doesn't even remember saying this, but I remember it vividly. I was unwrapping Christmas presents at my grandparents' house on Christmas afternoon. I'd already gotten the "Santa haul" from home, and now it was time to get the "relatives' haul." I remember the scene very clearly. I was sitting on the floor by the ottoman of the chair by the sliding glass door that overlooked the front porch. One or two of their seventy bazgillion feral cats (they lived out in the country) were probably out on that porch, looking through that door at me, trying to soak in some of the indoor warmth through the glass. I had just opened my last present, and was surrounded by boxes, toys, wrapping paper, and the comic strips my aunt used to wrap presents in. And I turned to my mom and said something. I don't remember what I said, but her response was unforgettable. I was either complaining about how I didn't have any more presents or bragging about how much I'd gotten or something like that, and my mom said something profound. She said, "Ruth, the older you get, the more you're going to want to give things than get things."

I remember that so clearly because it was impossible for my four year old brain to understand that logic. What? How could I EVER be happier giving than getting? Getting stuff is AWESOME; giving stuff means I'll...have to sacrifice. Sacrifice doesn't make sense to most four year olds. In fact, it doesn't make much sense to most adults, either.

And maybe I should be ashamed of myself for admitting this, but my favorite part about Christmas is still NOT about what I give. It's still about what I get. The difference between the four year old me and the thirty-one year old me is that I'm no longer so tremendously excited about getting stuff. The most important part of Christmas is that God gave Himself to me. And I guess that does make me selfish, but the fact is, I need to be selfish, here. I need God. I don't always understand sacrifice, but God understands it well. Giving, love, sacrifice, mercy--that's kind of what He's about. So I do get excited about receiving Him, all the while praising Him for being the holy and righteous Giver, both just and merciful. It takes a certain degree of humility to realize that we don't really have anything to give. We can't be the Giver. But there can be so much joy in taking what we're offered, and God offers what we need. And Christmas is the celebration of the culmination of all the promises of God, which came in the form of a weak, human baby. No...I don't really think I understand the concept of sacrifice at all.

Merry Christmas!

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