The pre-Christmas hustle and bustle stresses me out.
Don't get me wrong. I'm no Scrooge or Grinch. I love the lights. I love singing the carols. I love the anticipation of celebrating the birth of the Savior. I love buying gifts for my kids and husband. I enjoy seeing the tree lit up, weighed down with our menagerie of ornaments. This year, I've even become quite a Christmas movie buff. (I especially like the old ones: "It's a Wonderful Life", "White Christmas", "A Christmas Carol" (with George C. Scott), "Miracle on 34th Street" (black and white version with Natalie Wood). I'd like to see "The Nativity". And, of course, my two childhood faves, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas".) I like seeing the house looking all festive. I love all the church services, each with their own special significance and meaning.
But when it's all said and done, it mostly makes me...tired. I lose the joy somewhere along the way, somewhere between the gift-wrapping and the cookie-making. It all just becomes part of what I have to get done before Christmas Day arrives.
However, thanks to two wonderful young boys, I have recently seen the beauty of Christ's spirit put back into my Christmas preparations.
A couple of weeks ago, we had some measurable snow here in northeast Ohio. It was one of those times when it snowed awhile, then let up. Then it snowed some more. Off and on all day, and into the night. By the next day, the driveway needed another going-over. While we were finishing up some school work before lunch, my oldest son, who's 10, looked out the front window. He saw our elderly neighbor attempting to clear her driveway. As soon as they could, both of my boys (the younger is 7) headed across the street to shovel her driveway. Miss Stanna doesn't speak much English, as she immigrated here from Europe when her home country erupted in civil war. She is a sweet, sweet lady. When the boys were finished, she gave each of them a hearty, "Thank you!" and a big, shiny apple for their efforts. I was so proud of both of them! They did it just because they knew it was the right thing to do, even knowing our own driveway still needed to be cleared.
The other incident occurred just yesterday. We had gone out to do some shopping, as they still needed to finish buying some gifts. As we went into the store, my oldest son said, "I need to make sure I don't spend too much, though, Mom. I have to have some left over to put in that bucket." And, sure enough, when we left the store, both of them trotted right over to the Salvation Army bell ringer, and put some of their money in that bucket. You have to understand, too, that this is their own money: allowances, tooth money, etc. They gladly gave it, knowing that it will help someone who really needs it.
When I see such unselfish giving, given from such pure motives, it makes me want to laugh, and cry, and sing, all at once! For this is the message of Christmas: that Christ came and gave Himself unselfishly for us. He held nothing back in His giving. He gave, knowing that what He would receive in return would be rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion. But He gave anyway. He gladly gave it, knowing that our salvation was worth it all.
This Christmas, may we all learn to give and give, expecting nothing in return...except the joy of knowing we are following in the footsteps of the greatest Giver of all.
God bless you, and Merry Christmas!