SPEND LESS (Nel Slater)
Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money, but I never felt poor, and I have lots of Christmas memories that involved inexpensive presents. For starters, our family exchanged names. Dutch immigrants with 5 kids, my parents were very creative about how to get the most fun for the least cost. Santa simply wasn’t part of the tradition; it was a gift exchange between real family members, and I loved it.
In addition, my parents intentionally separated the gift exchange (often more than a week before the 25th) from the Christian holiday — on which we went to church — to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Early in December, the gifts would gradually collect under the tree and at dinner for several days in a row, Dad would say, “Does everyone have their gifts ready?! Does everyone have their gifts ready?! …Should we open the gifts tonight? How about tonight?!”
“YA!!” we all would yell, and he would tease, “Oh, not tonight. Tomorrow.” And the same game would happen the next night, and the next. Then one evening, he’d say, “OKAY, let’s do it!!” Then we’d all gather in the living room and – one by one – open our gifts.
Often, gifts were wrapped in funny shapes to resemble something else, or with bumps and lumps and things sticking out or rattling attachments; it was impossible to guess what was inside. As well, some gifts were wrapped in many layers, each with a different tag to a different receiver so that for a moment, each person thought the gift was for them. Well, and the wrapping paper! Newspaper is the best! Comics, supreme!
One year when we were short on money, we were to exchange gifts costing a dollar or less. My gift was from my brother, Leonard, when I had an interest in calligraphy. That Christmas, I opened a hand-carved ink holder and I was thrilled. It remains one of my favorite Christmas gifts to this day.
Challenge (by Devon Wagler)
The Israelite nation was one which had spent the last several centuries waiting for the coming Messiah. In fact, history tells of several uprisings and revolutions against occupying powers because of this belief. They were ready, but in the wrong way.
We spend a lot of time getting ready for Christmas, a lot of time getting ready in the wrong way, even when we think that it’s the right way. John called for people to ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. Is repenting, turning back to God, part of your Christmas preparation?
“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”