These 8 gifts come already unwrapped. No shrieks of delight when they’re opened. They’re quiet and don’t draw attention to themselves. Yet, the mood, the feel, the quality of your family time together will be enhanced in un-measurable, meaningful ways.
These are not Christmas gifts, but gifts OF Christmas. Maybe one will be perfect for you and your family:
Let Plan B become Plan A. The manger was Plan B. Plan A was the Inn. You have plans and expectations for your family time, but stuff will happen. Don’t argue or get frustrated. You could end up in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day singing Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra!
Accept generosity. Let others be generous towards you. Let them give, clean up, pay for a meal, give you more than you gave them. Receiving is a gift to the giver. All that back-and-forth insisting “no I’m not going to let you do that,” and grabbing the check stuff is demeaning to generosity. Baby Jesus couldn’t give back until later (and then boy did he give). You’ll have a chance another time to be overly generous to them.
Sing. I hum absentmindedly, inventing themes and choruses as I go. People stop me and say, “you must be happy.” Singing, happiness, contentment, and peace seem linked. When Jesus’ birth was announced to the shepherds, an army of angels sang; a singing army! Even if you DON’T feel like it, singing will surround you with an aura of happiness, contentment, and peace that touches your family.
Fear not. Don’t put high expectations and pressure on yourself to meet a standard you made up that no one else is even aware of. The shepherds at Christmas were at the center of a majestic appointment between heaven and earth. Now, THAT’S big. Who could stand it? They were told to “fear not.” Take your invented idea of a perfect Christmas and family time and exchange it for the simple expectation of “good news of great joy.”
What you give is good enough. The wise men brought riches. The innkeeper had only a stable. The shepherds just showed up. Resist comparing the number or value of your gifts to the gifts given by others. Money and presents are one kind of gift. Hospitality is another. So is attention, patience, grace, gratefulness, and words of encouragement. Give what you have.
Resist the urge to dish out justice. Joseph believed Mary was pregnant by another man. Yet he would not publicly and shamefully send her away, even though it looked like she deserved it. Of course it turned out things were not at all how they looked. The argument, the slight, the insult, the unfairness may beg for retaliation, but for this week leave fairness to God and go to him for the satisfaction you would get from justice. Your family will notice.
Take inner joy that your family is important to God. Do this secretly while you’re with them. Walking the dog with my wife the other day, I had a great sense of appreciation and gratitude for Brenda as I walked behind her. I thanked God for her over and over for several minutes. I think my attitude, without saying anything, influenced the quality of our time together. The Christmas story in Matthew and Luke begins with establishing the identity of of the families of Joseph and Mary. When God blesses the world, he starts with family.
Serve with humility. Release expectations of credit or reciprocation. This might help: tell God you want to do good and serve your family, and you do not want anyone to say anything thanking you for it. NOW you’re ready to be unappreciated and you’ll thank God for it. God humbled himself and came to earth as a lowly human, born as a baby in poverty and humility. He deserved worship, but received rejection and punishment. You’ll be in good company.
Which Gift of Christmas is talking to you? Can you think of others?