The Ultimate Gift

When online shopping became widely available, I was convinced I would never use it. I liked shopping in the outlet mall and department stores, perusing the sale flyers and hunting for bargains. I wanted to see the merchandise up close and try the clothing on for size. You can’t do that with a virtual shopping cart.

Then Christmas came along. 

The stores were hot and over-crowded and people were crabby. Everything was picked over and I could never find the right size and color. The checkout lines were endless and the return lines were even longer.  And forget about finding a parking spot within reasonable walking distance to the store! By the time I got home I was exhausted and in a “Bah-humbug” mood. It was time for a change.

For the past two years, I’ve done most of my holiday shopping online. I avoid Black Friday mall madness, opting instead for Cyber Week sales. When I do venture out, it is usually to support one of the small local shops where I can find unique specialty gifts in a more relaxed setting. They even serve refreshments and offer free gift wrapping!

My mom once told me that my dad liked shopping on Christmas Eve when we were kids. That blew my mind. Wouldn’t that have been nerve-wracking, worrying about finding a particular gift so late in the season and at the last possible moment? 

Today, although I am grateful for the convenience of modern technology, I long for the bygone days. Once upon a time, Christmas was simpler, and it saddens me that our children and grandchildren will never know those days except through TV movies, family photo albums and stories shared around the table.

But perhaps we can still create meaningful traditions with our families that capture the true meaning of giving. We can provide Christmas gifts for homeless children in our community, spend time with a homebound senior, or bring a meal to new neighbors. These may seem like small gestures, but by giving to others, we remind our families why we are celebrating this special day.

““You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬

Jesus came into this world to shine light into the darkness. He brought the gift of light and love, giving hope to those who felt lost and alone, He continues to shine that same light today, and His presence is felt through the hands of others who hold, help and heal.

There is no greater gift we can give at Christmas and all throughout the year.

One Starry Night

Oh, my, it has been a busy week! I began my “joyful journal” on Monday and kept adding to it almost every day. Had I not been looking carefully, I might have missed some of the more simple joys of the season, such as seeing the Downy Woodpecker at our suet feeder, or the colorful twinkling lights on our street.

Heartwarming joys mid-week included delivering Christmas gifts to a homeless outreach program, and providing clothing for a young boy in need. There is no greater joy in this season of giving than helping others who are struggling through difficult times.

A very special joy came this weekend, as we participated in “One Starry Night in Bethlehem”. Now in its fourth year, this event has become an annual tradition — not only for our church — but also for many families in our community. For two nights, our church is transformed into the town of Bethlehem, as we imagine it might have appeared on the night of Jesus’ birth.

I was particularly excited last evening because our daughter joined us for the first time. She played the role of a potter named Leah, demonstrating how to fashion small bowls from clay.

My husband and I look forward to sharing the Christmas story with our visitors each year. Yes, we are the innkeepers — the ones who turned Mary and Joseph away because our inn was full to capacity. We tell the children how we led the couple to our stable, and there Mary gave birth to a son. She wrapped him in swaddling cloths and placed him in the manger, right beside the animals.

The children love hearing the story, and they sit wide-eyed as my husband shares how the shepherds followed the star and came searching for the newborn King. Later in the evening, the families will visit with Mary and Joseph in the stable, and see baby Jesus before leaving Bethlehem. It is wonderful that we are able to tell the Christmas story in a way that brings it to life!

Isn’t it amazing how one starry night brought such joy into the world, and continues to shine in our hearts today?