I can remember the excitement I had, as a young kid, waking up before the light had even started to come up over the horizon on Christmas morning and running down to the tree to see what presents were waiting.
Truth be told, it didn’t matter what they were. It was all about the anticipation and the excitement of tearing off the wrapping paper to see what was there; that was the real thrill.
Many of us, children and adults alike, will have the same experience this year as the tradition of sharing Christmas gifts plays out in homes across the land. The giving and receiving of gifts…it meets a deep need in all of us. Who doesn’t love to know that people care enough about them to want to give us a present, and at the same time who doesn’t love the satisfaction we receive when we see the pleasure on the faces of those who receive gifts from us. Of course, when the gifts given is the sign of something more important, such as the love, respect, or gratitude we have towards someone – then the gifts, given or received, become that much more precious. Therein lies the real value of the gifts we give and receive, the love they express.
Christmas really is all about gifts – especially one in particular. As Christians we believe that God, out of a great love for humanity, gave us the most wondrous, amazing, most precious gift of all. God gave us the gift of himself in the tiny child born in the lowliest of circumstances in Bethlehem.
That child would grow up to be the man who taught, both by words and actions, that a life lived in love, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness is the life that is really worth living. That kind of a life is not easy – it may bring struggles, failure, even disappointment – but it also can bring, and often does bring something else…deep and lasting joy.
This is what we sing about in the songs of Christmas – the carols that we sing- Joy to the World; peace on earth and goodwill to all people. As each of us approaches this Christmas Season it is my sincere, heartfelt hope that we will share the most important gifts of all with each other and indeed with all people: the gifts of compassion, of forgiveness, of generosity, of respect, of large heartedness, and of love.
And may all of us, here, in our communities, in our nation and in the world, whatever our understanding of faith, religion and God might be, experience the joy, mercy, and hope that are at the heart of the story we celebrate this season…the Christmas story.