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I sit amidst what can only be described as a Christmas explosion: a room full of new toys, crumpled wrapping paper thrown aside, and plastic containers that once trapped the hottest toys of the season. “SANTA!!! I know him!” blares through the room as we watch Elf for the third time this week.
If you’re as familiar with the movie Elf as my family and I are, you know that when Buddy meets Jovie for the first time, he greets her with a joyful greeting because he’s finally met someone who seems to share the same Elf affinity he does; however, she responds that she’s just trying to get through the holiday. Buddy tells her that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear.
Who are you? Are you like Jovie, just getting through the holidays? Or are you like Buddy, spreading the gift of Christmas joy to all whom you encounter?
Whether you receive everything on your Christmas list this year, or if you typically do three gifts under your tree, Christmas has become a celebration where we spend time with our families and exchange gifts with loved ones.
It’s easy for us as Christians to say Jesus is the reason for the season, the ultimate gift, and then simultaneously add to our Amazon cart or in-store Walmart pickup order.
And while it is perfectly well and good to participate in giving and receiving gifts at Christmas (after all, God gave us the original Christmas gift), Jesus is the reason for the season and the ultimate gift.
It’s what we do with this gift that determines whether we’re Jovie or Buddy. I don’t mean whether we use every gift to its fullest or give the most well-received gifts at the party. What I mean is do we live out the truths of our ultimate gift every day of the year. Do we covet other people’s things? Do we give gifts on Christmas morning and then gossip about our families in the afternoon? Do we score the hottest item for our kids and then use our phones to view websites we shouldn’t? Do we praise the Lord with our lips during mealtime grace, and then slander our coworker for something we do ourselves?
I recently read a book called Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle, which celebrates the tiny things that make our lives complete. The most critical and complete small thing is the arrival of a sweet baby boy, born in a manger with no Facebook post, newborn photo shoot, or handprint ornament art for the tree. He came to live and breathe as we do, with no privilege of his Father’s position. The Jewish nation wanted the Messiah that they pictured: a king coming in for a fight to end their political oppression and separation from the Lord. What they got was Jesus. A tiny baby in a manager. A mighty king born in Bethlehem late one evening.
“‘Do not be afraid, a savior is born.’ Because that’s what God gave us when his son Jesus was born that night so long ago: the assurance that we no longer need to be afraid because we have a Savior. We don’t need to be afraid of death or the future or the present or all those other fear-mongering rabbit trails our minds go to in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep, because we have a God who loves us so much that he sent his son wrapped in the soft skin of a newborn, and what sounded like a baby’s cry was actually a holy roar letting darkness know the light will always triumph in the end.”
- Melanie Shankle, Church of the Small Things (p. 201)
It’s not about the gifts given or received, but about our hearts and the state we find ourselves in all year long.
So, are you a Jovie, just getting by? Going through the motions and doing what’s expected? Or are you a Buddy? Understanding the joy Christmas brings; the birth of the Savior, and singing loud for all to hear about the gift of Jesus?
Maybe you’re a little bit of both. Let’s face it, that’s probably the majority of us, really. There’s nothing wrong with our winter traditions of family time together and the exchanging of gifts, but remember to check your heart and make sure you remember the real reason for the season - the gift that we are all called to share with the world each and every day of the year.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.