Have you ever regifted something your Aunt Ethel gave you for Christmas that you have absolutely no use for, which she probably got last year from her tasteless brother? Come on, you know you have. We probably all have. It’s okay. Regifting is in scripture, you know. John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I have a new appreciation for those words this year.
We have been decorating for the last three weeks for Christmas, and we’re not finished. I’m not even sure what Christmas will look like, but my anticipation this year has taken on a deeper meaning. It’s not the expectation of the sweet, non-threatening “baby” Jesus arriving. It’s about the Jesus, who seems to have gotten lost among us, especially this year.
We have all been witnessing our world collapse into chaos: the anger, violence, and hatred brought about by Covid, the Black Lives Matter movement, economic collapse, natural disasters, and the elections. That’s a LOT to deal with in such a short time. And watching the steady stream of sucky news isn’t helping. Some may wonder if Christmas is even worth the hassle, or anticipate more violence, or obsessively shop and decorate just to dull the senses. But, as I prepare for this season, I have imagined a better scenario.
As one who has fallen away from the “Institutional Church” with all its trappings of dogma and rules and birthday cake for baby Jesus, I seem to be left with the stripped-down version of the meaning of Christmas. Perhaps I can see much better, like the blind man Jesus healed. I’m not sure if Jesus would have “physically” healed his blindness. He certainly could have. But, more importantly, I think of it as compassion revealing itself. I believe the tender touch of Jesus changed that man others rejected and cast aside. Maybe he felt his worth and innate dignity for the first time in his life. If you have ever “experienced” Jesus’ tender touch, you know what I’m talking about. But there’s more, and this is where it gets uncomfortable. Jesus expected him, as he does us, to not cling to that love he was shown, but to reach out to others and share it. It’s not a commodity to horde like the last roll of toilet paper on the shelf; it’s a gift to be given away. I have come to see this Christmas as an opportunity like no other to do just that.
God wants my excitement and anticipation to result in action. He is telling me, all of us really, “That’s great you’re excited. Now go do something about it!” Offer kindness and compassion to those who suffer: The elderly who are alone, millions of children in America that go to bed hungry, the neglected and abused. Check on your neighbor. Offer a smile and kind words to everyone you meet. Quit hating and judging others. Quit whining and complaining about what you don’t have, feel gratitude for what you do have, and then find a way to share it.
When we are called to “give till it hurts”, that’s not referring to outlandish presents under the tree that are often not even appreciated. It’s about offering love back to God and others with all your heart and soul. (Matt. 22:37) That’s how we can more meaningfully celebrate Christ in our midst!