I was gonna do the whole Christmas card thing this year, because I haven’t done it in a while. I even went to Barnes & Noble and picked up some really terrific cards. But sometime over the weekend I decided I didn’t want to bother with it. I’ll use the cards next year. I think it’s dumb to feel obligated to give cards or gifts at Christmas time. The moment I feel obligated rather than freely motivated to give someone a gift, I shut down and reboot. Christmas isn’t about obligation. It’s about God’s free gift to mankind, and our appreciation and honor of that gift. I don’t even know where the whole “give other people gifts” idea came from. Sure, I like the “be nice to everybody” feeling of Christmas time, but I don’t recall seeing any practice of giving gifts to each other anywhere other than the American marketplace. As I recall, the occasion was all about Christ. The wisemen gave gifts to Christ to honor him. We’ve since replaced “him” with “us.”
My Christmas will include spending time with all the people I love—friends and family. I don’t even care about the gifts involved. I just want to hang out, have fun and fellowship. And at some point, I’ll want to take time to consider what it meant for Christ to become a man. Even the Bible doesn’t make a big deal about the birth of Christ. The emphasis is on the life and death of Christ. What did it really mean for a holy and sinless man to die for the sins of the guilty?
Christmas is about freedom—freedom from obligation. God sent us his Son to grant us freedom. And God’s gift is free. Not in the sense that it didn’t cost Him anything (for it surely did), but in the sense that he doesn’t want anything in return for it. Salvation is free. And that’s the true spirit of Christmas.
People give gifts to one another—hopefully not expecting anything back. Once feelings of obligation come into the picture, the whole spirit is ruined. I shouldn’t feel obligated to send out cards or give out gifts. I’m giving gifts to my friends and family out of love and appreciation. But even so, that gift-giving should not replace the honor and appreciation I should show to Christ, who is the real reason for the holiday.