What is the real meaning of Christmas? During this festive time of the year, many are busy reminding us that the meaning certainly has nothing to do with presents. Let’s not buy into the materialistic side of Christmas, we are told. Let’s not focus on the gifts.
Now let me say that the sentiment behind such concerns is entirely valid. Few would disagree with the fact that Christmas (especially in America) is overly commercialized and materialistic. And certainly we would want to resist this trend as much as possible.
However, is the denigration of gifts really the way to accomplish this? Are gifts the problem? Not necessarily. I appreciate the recent article my wife wrote on this topic, posted today on the Gospel Coalition. She provides a healthy balance by reminding us that while giving gifts can be distorted by our sinful natures, it can also reflect the gift-giving God we serve and in whose image we are made. Here is an excerpt:
As I discussed my internal struggle with my husband, he kindly reminded me that gift giving does not so much reflect worldly materialism as our Creator, who delights to give gifts to his people. I bear within my humanity the stamp of his image. There is something of the divine nature in yearning to give to others.
He also reminded me that while we bear the image of our Creator, it is marred and broken by the Fall. A good desire becomes twisted and results in sin. Rather than glorify the Creator, gift giving is often rooted in the desire for self-glory. My internal wrestling exhibits the war between what I was created to be and the effects of sin.
Our car ride conversation prompted me to ponder anew the glory of the gift that God freely gave on that night in Bethlehem. These reflections have filled my heart with a deep joy and thanksgiving. Reveling in the wonder of the true and lovely fills the shadows of earthly gift giving with substance.
Truly special gifts usually involve preparation and waiting. From the exit of Eden, a promise of redemption and a hope was given. The divine whisper continued speaking through all the prophets: Something special is coming. Wait for it. Watch for it. Hope in it.
And then, at just the right moment in time, God sent angels and a star in the heavens to declare, “The gift is here.” Glory wrapped in flesh made his dwelling among us in the form of a baby. It was unexpected. It was surprising. It was exactly what we needed.
You can read the whole thing here.