by Rev. Mike Gillen, Pastor, Bowling Green First, Eolia, and Oak Grove United Methodist Churches
I was in a shopping mall last week looking for the perfect Christmas gifts for my wife and kids. As I was walking from a sporting goods store to a women’s clothing store I stopped to watch children sit on Santa’s lap.
I heard one little boy say to his mom that he was going to ask for a very pricey toy. I knew it was expensive because his mother said, “That’s a really expensive toy. Maybe you should think about something a little smaller that Santa could carry easier down the chimney.”
The little boy looked confused, then excited. He said, “I know I won’t get this toy if I ask you and dad to get it for me. That’s why I’m going to ask Santa to bring it to me. Santa can do anything!”
Christmas is a time of wishing for great gifts. Some of us are restrained by the realities of our lives and unable to try and attain our heart’s desires. Others see this holy season as that chance to fulfill impossible dreams.
Sometimes I wish I could be like the little boy waiting to ask Santa for a gift he knew no one else could get him, knowing there was a way to make the unrealistic a reality. I’m usually too realistic, too constrained by the limitations I see or imagine.
One of the main messages of Christmas is that the unimaginable, the unbelievable, and the impossible can be real. The story of Christ’s birth is all about a people whose dreams come true through the gift of a single child’s birth in an obscure, ordinary place.
Christmas is meant to be a time of remembering and retelling a divine truth—that God is with us and working in our world long before we ever notice. The divinely human life of the Christ child is meant to inspire all of humanity to turn to God and receive the eternal gift of grace and faith.
So often the meaning of Christmas is cheapened when the pressures of the season overwhelm people. I’ve seen too many families fall apart during this time of year because they just can’t get along long enough to have Christmas dinner. Or they take on too much debt because they want to give gifts they can’t afford to buy.
And yet God continues to work in our world during this holiday. God is reaching out to us, offering to make our lives better, and seeking to inspire us to make our relationships healthier.
As you shop for Christmas presents this year consider these gifts you can receive from God. The first gift is hope. Have hope that God can be trusted. Place your hope in a better future through faith in the Christ child.
The second gift is peace. Spend time this holiday season praying to God for a peacefulness to take over your thoughts and actions. Be intentional about being at peace with yourself and others.
The third gift is joy. Find joy in the message of Christ’s birth. Open up a Bible and read the story of Jesus’ birth. Let the joy of Christmas fill you up.
And the fourth gift is love. God loves you and sends Christ to earth so that your life can be better now and into eternity. Allow God’s love for you to change you and the way you relate to others.
As you shop for the perfect Christmas gifts allow yourself to dream of the perfect gifts God wants to give you. Take time to seek out the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christ’s birth. And believe that God’s grace can change you for the better.