Much of what we find in our stockings is random (e.g. a name tag from the summer I worked at the Pizza Hut in Nags Head, make-your-own lip gloss kit, Billy Graham refrigerator magnet) but fun practical items can be found in there too. One year we all got knives.
Nothing about knives says “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus” but people need knives and these had colorful handles and sharp blades. The young people in the family were trying to equip their own kitchens and the older people in the family had misplaced all their knives.
Why do I share this? Because the Advent season – those days before we celebrate the birth of Jesus – is about preparing to receive not what we want but what we need. Some people strongly believe that Christmas is about getting what we want. But I believe that Christmas is more about becoming aware of what we need, and what we need is certainly more enduring than knives.
Every day, we are confronted by so much pain and anger and frustration – at least if we are paying attention. (Read the comment on my blog post yesterday about “points of disaster.”) There are desperately broken people everywhere and not just in Mexico Beach, FL, Paradise, CA, and Anchorage, AK. They are also in places that never make the news. Despair is on the rise. Peace on earth is hard to find.
And so we give gifts that some people want and some people don’t want and some people need and some people don’t need. Whether or not you believe that knives make excellent stocking stuffers, what we all need this Christmas is what the Messiah was expected to bring to the long-suffering Israelites and to us all:
- Abundant Life
- Spiritual Gifts We Cannot Begin to Imagine
These things are harder to receive than most other gifts. Prosperity Gospel Preachers might tell us that tangible wealth is one of the gifts God promises to the faithful, but Jesus is not Santa. Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with money – unless we are talking about giving it away.
What do we deeply need this Christmas? What will change our lives in terms of our sense of spiritual peace? It’s something to think about as we countdown to December 25th.