I remember growing up, Christmas was always special for my family. Every Christmas Eve, without fail, we would travel “all the way” to my dad’s mother’s house to celebrate, which was just a town over from where we lived (not even ten minutes away). Each year was different, with someone coming up with something to make it extra special. Whether it be a Christian movie my mom would find, a random emoji game my uncle found on Facebook, or games outside, there was something special about each Christmas Eve that made it memorable. Once the prayer was said over the food, it was a race to see how long the desserts would last. My mom, being one of the family’s tasked bakers, baked a cake every year, with my other aunts contributing various pie and cake recipes that they had perfected throughout the years. Once the food was eaten and things began to settle down, my dad would pass out the gifts. It wasn’t until I got older that things began to change for me about gifts.
When I was younger, I always looked forward to receiving a gift for Christmas when visiting my relatives. That seemed to be the highlight of the trip for me. In particular, my mother’s side of the family tends to focus more on gifts, even going as far as doing elaborate gift exchanges and gift games. I always despised going to my mother’s side because I felt like a guinea pig running everywhere to meet everyone’s needs. There was no time to relax and to enjoy the moment, but then again, my focus then wasn’t completely on being present with my family either.
I remember, clear as day, one year when I was about eight or nine years old when I received a Barbie doll for Christmas from one of my aunts on Christmas Eve (dad’s side of the family). It was a beautiful black Barbie that had an olive green skinny dress with stripes at the bottom and a deep v-neck collar. Here’s the thing: I already knew that I was getting that same doll the next day on Christmas from my mom. When unwrapping the Barbie and seeing what doll it was, I yelled out “But I’m already getting this doll!” My mom immediately covered my mouth in embarrassment and had me to apologize to my aunt later that evening. At the moment, I felt completely justified. Before you kill me, remember I was eight or nine at this point! For whatever reason, I really felt that my aunt needed to know that I was getting this doll, may so that she could give it to someone else. But, looking back on the experience now, as I think about what happened quite often especially since that aunt passed away last year, I still get secondhand embarrassment from what happened all those years ago.
It wasn’t about the Barbie doll. It was never about the Barbie doll or any of the other gifts I ever received. It was about the meaning and purpose behind the gift.
Giving gifts to other people isn’t all about the gift. No, it’s much more. Long ago, Jesus came to Earth to us as a gift, but we rarely think of His birth that way. Without His coming, we would have no hope for the future. We would be perpetually lost in sin with no way of escape. Jesus, our gift of salvation, frees us from the bondage of sin so that we can live a life of service to Him.
This Christmas is much different than any I’ve ever experienced given the current pandemic. I won’t be traveling or visiting family members, but staying at home and building new memories with my immediate family in my household. But, even in the midst of these anxious and unsettling times, God is still in control. He knows what’s going on and what will happen. Jesus alone is all we need.