Christmas, the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday, falls on December 25th this year! But I think I started seeing the first hints of Christmas advertising in August. I knew a woman in Florida who kept her Christmas tree up all year. Americans’ are expected to spend about $801 per person this Christmas. This boils down to about $550 for gifts, $100 food and candy, $50 decorations, $30 greeting cards and $20 for flowers.
Why? Some believe the tradition of gift giving at Christmas goes back to pre-Christian times in Rome and was simply adopted by the early Church. Wherever it came from it is firmly rooted. Most of us have memories of gift giving that includes looking at shelves piled high with everything from after-shave to wooden puzzles scratching our head wondering what uncle, aunt, cousin… might like. Or then there is what has sometimes been called the ‘dirty Santa’ ritual of exchange at Christmas parties.
One of my early Christmas memories growing up in West Virginia was the time I saw an elderly woman carrying a heavy bag of groceries down a snowy sidewalk. I stopped my car and asked if I could give her a ride. Carrying her bag to the door of her ram shackle home I saw light coming through the boarded walls and broken glass in the windows. As I helped her with her things I saw little in her cupboards. I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t rest until I found a way to go back and cover her windows and bring more food. It is a vivid memory because of all the Christmas memories of my childhood it is the happiest. I did grow up in a loving home with my parents and two brothers but this memory stands out.
Why? “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-6). …”Master, what are you talking about?” they respond. “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.”
Who do you see around you ignored? Whose birthday is it anyway?