“Give and it will be given to you…” Lk. 6:38
Do you remember this Christmas song...?
You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is comin’ to town…
He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice,
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.
As a child, I found the tune delightful, but struggled at times with how to reconcile the lyrics with the message of Christmas and the spirit of giving. In some countries, the custom of putting shoes or stockings out on St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6th) includes a warning that if you are not nice, St. Nicholas may leave you a lump of coal or a switch instead of something nice. Now that certainly makes the season bright, doesn’t it?
At this time of year everyone is thinking about Christmas gifts. If you haven't already finished your Christmas shopping, I have a few suggestions for you to consider this year. Even if you have done your shopping, you might find some things on this list that would make good stocking stuffers.
If your children or grandchildren are looking for gift ideas for you, many of the items on my list would be good suggestions to pass on to them.
We tend to think in terms of toys and electronic gadgets for gifts for our grandchildren. Why not give them gifts that have a more lasting value and impact in their lives. I believe we need to encourage our grandkids to read more. That's why many of my suggestions include good books for them to read.
Here are my Christmas Gift Recommendations…
“Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.” Exodus 23:14
Traditions and ceremony are God’s idea—not man’s. He gave Israel certain celebrations to observe for a reason. These holy day traditions provide a concrete, meaningful way to preserve the truth and wonder of God’s story of love and grace for all generations. Knowing how prone we are to forget, God prescribed tangible, recurring reminders of who we are, who He is, and what He has done for us.
I love the film and stage play, Fiddler On The Roof. The main character in the story, Tevye, struggles to keep his balance on that precarious perch between preserving long-established traditions that have provided stability and identity for generations, and adapting to a changing world that challenges those traditions, even in his own family. His simple credo that says “without traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof” is suddenly shaken. Tevye is forced to wrestle with what should be changed and where the line between change and tradition must be drawn to keep from losing his balance.
I wonder, how many even wrestle with such critical questions today?
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100:4-5
Thanksgiving is already here. Can you believe it? I know it’s here because that’s when my wife starts playing Christmas music in our home. Wasn’t it yesterday that we celebrated Labor Day? It’s no trite saying that time flies as you get older. You and I both know how true that is.
I do have to say, however, that I look forward to the approaching holy-days, and not just because family comes together. I love it because these holidays inspire a time to pause (even if it’s a brief pause) and ponder the splendor and goodness of God. It’s easy in times of abundance and plenty to forget the source of our good gifts and focus on the stuff. In times of adversity it can be challenging to remember all the goodness God continually provides, and focus on the pain.
Unquestionably, the Pilgrims knew about adversity that first year especially after arriving at New Plymouth on the Mayflower. Within their first four months together nearly half of the 106 souls who began the journey to the New World died. Yet, they never failed to give thanks to God for what they did have, as little as it was. They knew that struggles could make them bitter, or make them better. They choose better.