It is so easy to get wrapped up (pun intended) in the gift-giving frenzy of Christmas. Every year I try to keep it simple and every year I stretch myself beyond the limits I should. I had to leave work early this week in order to get the giving tree gifts for church that I had committed to getting and since I left it until the last minute and got snowed in two of my important shopping days, I had no choice but to use my last half of a personal day to race to a store and pick up the gifts. “You over-extended yourself,” my co-worker pointed out. Yup. Guilty. A thousand times guilty.
Without getting into too much detail about the thin financial ice I am on, I had a moment of clarity today at work while I was passing out my meager baked goods as a gesture of goodwill toward those who had helped me out all year long. A picture of a coworker’s son–a handsome, young football player not unlike my own–shook me out of my “if only I had more money to gift the way I want” mentality. You see, this young boy lost his older brother this summer in a bicycle accident. This Christmas he and his family will be grieving. They will no doubt try to be happy and celebrate what they have, but there will be a hole in their hearts that can never be filled with gifts or food or good wishes. The mother of these boys will be the pillar of strength that she has been through these long months, no doubt plagued with moments of intense sadness, but she will do what she has to do to keep living for her youngest son while experiencing the type of pain I can only imagine.
It doesn’t matter if I have no money and a ton of debt. I can make more money. It does matter that I have two rambunctious, healthy boys that I can hug and kiss and squeeze every day. It does matter that no matter how alone I feel at times, I am never alone. I have a family filled with amazingly wonderful, kind and generous people. I have a wide and varied circle of friends that range all over the world; some that I have known practically all my life. I have been blessed with people who truly care, who go the extra mile, who have been there and are there and will be there. These are the true gifts of the season.
Advent is about preparing our hearts for Jesus. About making room for the gifts that God alone bestows upon us: love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness. It is a lovely gesture to give gifts to each other to show one another that we matter, that our relationships matter, that the spirit of God is alive in each of us. But if we become so focused on checking off our lists and filling our days with doing and buying and gifting, there is a real danger in not leaving the time or space in our hearts and minds to let God fill us up. I had a reality check today. It is time to be still and let the true spirit of the season fill me up so that I can appreciate these fleeting precious moments of my sons’ childhoods. This time will not come again and can disappear in an instant.
Like the Little Drummer Boy, we all have a gift to bring. But it won’t come wrapped up with bows and be found under the tree. We all need to look inside and realize where our true gifts lie and make sure that we are bringing it. Not just on Christmas, but every day. That is how we will honor Him and each other. Hug your loved ones tight. Pray for those who cannot. Love your neighbors. Forgive. Make room. Believe.