There is an old saying that the greatest things in life aren’t things. Our greatest gifts are those we love, beginning with God, and extending to one another.
One of the great dangers at Christmas time (and with life in general) is that we maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum, of, as Jesus puts it, we strain out gnats and swallow camels (Matt 23:24). He spoke this of the religiously observant of his day who meticulously followed small and technical rules about cleanliness and ritual purity, but neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt 23:22).
In other words, at Christmas we can so focus on getting things and arranging events at Christmas that we neglect or even harm those who are our greatest gift.
Consider the growing sadness that many have now largely set aside the once sacred Thanksgiving holiday where people could spend time with family and enjoy company. Why? To have the stores open so people can run from the people they love to buy things for them. The gift eclipses both the giver and the recipient. And, on top of that we potentially sin against charity by creating a climate that requires the poor and those of the lower wage, working class in our store to work on Thanksgiving.
Add to this the short tempers at shopping malls, often caused by traffic, long lines, and items out of stock and the impression is created that things are more important than people. Not all suffer from this, but it is a problem.
In the video below is a touching reminder that the truer purpose of a gift is the well-being of another and the love we can show at Christmas.
The basic scene is that two snowmen are built, a kind of husband and wife snowman family. But one has, and the other has not. Seeing his wife’s need, a snowman sets out, enduring great hardship and many obstacles, to get for his wife what she needs. The greatest gifts are those that show care for another.
The “creator” of the snowman is watching this act of love unfold through the window. At the touching end of the video, the creator is very pleased.
And so too our Creator and Lord is also watching from the window of heaven and He is pleased with our acts of mercy as well.
The greatest things in life aren’t things; they are those we love. And the greater gift this Christmas is not so much the thing we give, as the care and love we extend through gifts shared, and the shared gift of our very selves.