Good Tidings of Great Joy

Luke 2:10-11 (NKJV) 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

(We will get back to the Parable of the sower next week. This week let me share so Christmas thoughts from 2014)

We find ourselves once again in the last month of another year. I confess that the Christmas season tends to be a little difficult for me. I am the youngest of seven children. The brother who was closest to me was 15 years old when I was born. The rest went up from there. When my father heard that my mother was pregnant at 41 his first comment was, “Oh boy! Now we can have Christmas again.”

My parents did not have much money but Christmas was the one time of year where they would do anything in their power to get me whatever I really wanted. Once I had children, I wanted to do for them what my Dad had done for me.

For the first few years, that was really no problem. We went into the ministry when my two oldest were 3 and 4 years old. We did not have a great deal of money but I managed to make sure we got our kids what they wanted for Christmas. As the years went by, they got older and we kept adding to the number. By the time I was 36 years old we had six and some of them were teenagers. The number and cost of the gifts had increased significantly. We were doing better but we still were not rich and the pressure began to mount.

Now I know what some of you are going to say. I should not have given into the commercial aspects of the season. It is not the size of the gift but the thought that counts. We should teach our children responsibility and not that they can have whatever they want. I agree with that sentiment 364 days of the year but not on Christmas! That is my curse.

As the years went by, I began to dread Christmas earlier and earlier. Now I have 6 children 3 spouses (with one to be added in March) and 14 grandchildren. These days I just leave the shopping to my wife.

Please pray that the Lord helps me with my “Scrooge” spirit, but let me also make something of a defense. It is not really commercialism that is at the heart of my problem. You see my father was a very good man but also a disappointed man. He was very talented in many ways. In some ways, I believe he was a genius.

He was a musician who as a young man formed a band that played at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. He was a natural engineer who created a prototype of an automatic transmission just before one was introduced. (Timing is everything.) He was gifted with all things mechanical. He functioned as a carpenter, electrician and machinist. He was a master auto mechanic. The one thing he did not have was an education.

My father and mother married when he was 17 and she was 16. My oldest brother was born in 1929. The last child before me was born in 1939. They raised six children through the heart of the depression and through World War II. They were forced to move to follow jobs because his education did not afford him a career. He did everything he could to provide for them.

My mother did not work. It just was not done in those days at least not in my family. She kept the family fed and together. She made the house a home but it was a very hard life with no time for further education. Through all the difficulties, they provided Christmas.

When I came along they were still not rich, but there was only one of me. As I said, Christmas was the time that my Mom and especially my Dad did all the things they could not do the rest of the year. Sometimes I am sure they did things they could not afford but they gave the best gift they possibly could. I remember many of those precious gifts to this day. It made Christmas magical and special.

I know they should have been concentrating on Jesus. They were Catholics and there was no doubt that the holiday was about the birth of Christ, but giving those special gifts to their last-born son was at the heart of it for them.

And finally, that became Christmas to me. It was not really about quantity, although we always had lots of presents under our tree. It was about getting each one the special gift, the one thing that I knew they wanted. I would go to every store in the area to find that gift at the best price. I would do everything in my power to get the guitar, car or latest electronics. There were GI Joe planes and forts. There were Barbie cars and houses. There were a few “Easy Bake Ovens” over the years and more than one “Lite Brite.”

My youngest, a daughter, always wanted the latest doll. She got the one that did somersaults, the one that burped, and many more. The thing is she hardly ever played with dolls! Still, they were the one gift she wanted so I got them for her. (Logic should have no place in such things!)

I will confess that sometimes I went into debt. I do not endorse that practice. I also confess that I have let the pressure of it get to me. More than the pressure of the expense, I have allowed my inability to continue giving them that one thing they want ruin Christmas for me a bit. Just because the oldest is 40 does not change the fact that, for me Christmas is about giving the best gift, the one gift that your child really wants. I know! That is unrealistic and not necessary. Even my children tell me so.

Although I freely admit to getting out of balance, I am not sure I am all wrong. What is Christmas really about after all? Is it not that our great Father God, in a fit of excess, gave the one gift to his children that they really needed; that they really wanted? Most of them do not know that to be true, but it is.

Christmas is about the babe in the manger of course. Christmas is about the God of the universe becoming man so that he could set us free from sin and death. Christmas is about many things that have nothing to do with malls and Santa Clause and all the cultural things that we enjoy. In essence, Christmas is about the gift!

Today’s scripture reminds me of how excited my Mom and Dad would get because of the gifts they were giving to me. It reminds me of how excited I would get when the kids would open that last gift which was always “the big gift.” Read what the verse says. The Father is excited about this wonderful gift he is giving his family!

I am just going to say it. I hate gift cards. I think that after reading this, maybe you can understand why. As you go through the Christmas season, do not allow yourself to give into the pressure that I did. Do not be caught up in the commercialism and overspending. On the other hand, you might remember that Christmas is about the best gift the Father could possibly give. Maybe you could find something, one thing that takes a little more thought than a gift card.

Do not misunderstand me. I use them too sometimes. (Well my wife does. I refuse!) That seems to be what the grandchildren want. Maybe, just for me, you could take the time to find one special thing. It does not have to be expensive it just has to be from the heart.

With that in mind, be as extravagant as you can be. Let that extravagance remind what Christmas is all about. It is about the most extravagant gift ever given.

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