All of my life Christmas has been one of the most exciting times of the year. Beginning with intense expectancy on Christmas Eve, I anxiously awaited the gifts I would receive from my wonderfully, overindulgent parents. This excitement carried over to Christmas morning when I would open my presents. But these emotions always subsided shortly after the unwrapping of the gifts. My parents always gave me the presents I asked for. But, after we cleaned up the paper wrappings, ribbons and boxes, we all went back to business as usual. Somehow I knew there just had to be more!
While in college, Rosemary, a fellow student, introduced me to the reason for this December celebration. She explained to me who Christ was, and as a result, I received the ultimate gift of eternal life. But, after receiving Christ as my Savior, my celebration of Christmas did not change. In fact, in my heart I knew there was still something missing in Christmas. I asked myself, “What is all the marketing and the buying of gifts all about?” I began to wonder if gifts were appropriate for Christmas because getting many gifts was not exciting for me anymore.
Then the light bulb went on, and I began to see what was missing from the Christmas experience. It was not “the gift giving thing” that was the problem. In fact, gifts were given at the very first Christmas celebration. The Magi came bearing gifts to the first Christmas.
My journey to a “Great Christmas” began when I had my own children. When it came to giving them Christmas gifts, I had to be held back. During the early days of December, my wife Rosemary kept repeating the same words, “Don’t you think this is enough, Bob.” I just could not help myself. Everything I saw, that was age-appropriate, I wanted to buy for them. I even wanted to buy my children gifts that were way beyond their years. After all, they were my children. Certainly my offspring were capable of tasks that would be beyond the abilities of other children. So I bought my two-year-old daughter a chess set and said to my wife Rosemary, “It is for her in the future.”
Christmas morning began to take on a whole new meaning. I no longer cared about unwrapping the gifts mere mortals could give me. I was watching my real “gifts” unwrap the things I bought them.
One Christmas morning, after the presents were unwrapped, Rosemary asked me if I had a good Christmas. When I said “yes,” she responded, “But once again you didn’t let us buy you much.” To which I responded, “I already have everything.” I had the privilege of giving to the people I love.
Wow! That was it. This is when I put Christmas into perspective. Christmas really is about giving! It is not about getting and buying the best gifts. It is all about giving your best, by discovering a way to express your love. It is not about getting — It is all about giving!
The Magi traveled hundreds of miles looking for the King. When they finally saw Him, they realized they had found the greatest gift ever given to mankind, and they knelt down to worship Him. The Magi saw they had no option, and spontaneously gave to the King out of their treasures. They reached into their travel bags and expressed their love and awe by giving to Him lavishly.
The pleasure I received from giving to my family started me on the journey of knowing the true meaning of Christmas. But that was just the beginning. The Magi did not give to each other, they gave as a response to their understanding of what was given to them on that first Christmas. They gave to the Lord. Christmas should not begin and end by giving to family members only.
The search for the “best give” at Christmas does not end at the manger scene. Once we realize that God has given us the greatest gift imaginable, out of overwhelming love and incredible gratitude to Him, we must begin to pour out on others with lavish giving. This giving must be poured out in such a way that our children will also be a part of the experience. We have been given so much, how can we not give much? Luke 12:48 …“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (NIV)
You may be thinking the Magi had it easy because they were actually at the manger and could give to baby Jesus. But ask yourself, “How can I go back to that stable and begin to give like the Magi?”
When Jesus’ disciples asked Him that same basic question, He responded with, “I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40 NLT). This Christmas, find a brother or sister in the faith who has a need, and give them a gift in the name of Jesus. By doing this, we join the fellowship of the Magi by giving to Jesus and meeting the needs of others. This is truly celebrating Jesus’ birth.
It took a long time to finally learn this lesson, and to genuinely celebrate the Christ Mass. I did not want my children to miss out on this wonderful experience. The Magi adventure for me each year has been to include my children on this exciting and fulfilling Christmas journey. We have learned the greatest Christmas secret that has been kept from this culture, that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.