Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The True Meaning of Christmas

In the corner of our living room sits a Christmas tree. It is decorated with garland, handmade ornaments, and rainbow candy canes, which the kids are already planning to devour. Around the tree are colorfully wrapped gifts, each with a label indicating to whom it belongs. We try to keep Christmas simple for our children, avoiding all of the excess that can easily take over the holiday. But, even with gifts given in moderation, our family has much more than many could ever dream of. Many families will have no tree to decorate, no gifts to wrap, no holiday meals to gather around. And because of this, and because of the blessings we have been given, our children will learn that Christmas is about much, much more than receiving gifts.

Although we will be celebrating many of the typical Christmas traditions—sending kids to bed early so that Santa can come, waking up at the break of dawn to excited squeals, and filling our tummies with holiday sweets—our most important tradition is happening today, three days before Christmas. Today, we are taking our children to the store to buy toys--toys that they love, toys that they will not get to keep. And then we will take those toys to our local domestic violence shelter, where mothers have fled with their children in an attempt to keep them safe, often only with the clothes they were wearing.

Our children may not yet completely understand the sacrifices that these families have made, but my hope is that some day they will. And for now, we are determined to make sure that they at least understand the importance of giving. On Christmas morning, after they have opened their gifts, we will thank God for all of our blessings. I will especially thank God for sending us His son, so that our children could live in peace and grace. I will thank Him for safety and health. And I will thank Him for the ability to give. Because that, to me, is the true meaning of Christmas.

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" (Matthew 25:35-40)

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