THE CHRISTMAS GIFT

BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON

DECEMBER 11, 2015

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The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

 

In December, 2005,  the Lord surprised me with a short story, called, “Mrs. Magilacutty Collides with Christmas.” (http://thegloryrd.com/2008/astory.html). I say surprised because I had no plans to write a short story, fictional or otherwise. But the Lord just plopped it on my heart and it flowed out onto the screen as fast as my fingers could fly across the keyboard. This time of year always brings the story back to mind because it’s about Ida Mae Magilacutty, an older Christian woman who only wanted to please the Lord, but in trying to do so found herself at odds with other Christians who had different ideas about how Christmas should be celebrated, presented, and honored.

 

When I lived in California, I enjoyed the absence of judgment and legalism for the most part.  Generally speaking, people there have the attitude that you can live your life however you see fit without them telling you how to do it. I found that to be a refreshing change.

 

After moving back to the Bible Belt almost 18 years ago now, I quickly remembered that some folks here are not so accepting of other people’s religious beliefs or lack of same. It isn’t that they mean to be unkind or unwelcoming, but they just have their own beliefs and persuasions which they think everybody else ought to follow. And worse than that, they believe they’re being faithful to the Lord by trying to persuade others that they are right.

 

Clearly the holiday madness is upon us, as evidenced by retailer’s super sales, shopping, wrapping, mailing, baking, and holiday parties to name a few things people do, trying to get everything perfect; or at the other extreme, working extra hard to impress others with their pious religious activities.

 

Like my heroine, Ida Mae Magilacutty, we sometimes find ourselves ensnared by the pious, judgmental types who insist that their way to celebrate Christmas is the only way, or worse, that no one should celebrate Christmas at all, period, end of statement.

 

When I “heard” this title, these thoughts began to come quick and fast.  Here it is 2015, and we haven’t gotten past this rather large bump in the road in terms of how to manage Christian fellowship.  I grew up right here in Neosho, in a church that taught we should not celebrate Christmas at all, which was my inspiration for Ida Mae Magilacutty’s boss at the library where she volunteered.  Miss Upchurch, the head librarian, believed like many people I grew up with did, that there should be no Christmas tree, no gifts, no cards, no carols, not even a Christmas mouse.

 

Even if you celebrate with all your heart, I am sure no one has missed the point that in spite of all the glam and glitter of the holiday season, the heartfelt gift giving and the sincere efforts to help other people who are not as blessed as we are, nevertheless, there is a whole lot of angst and actual depression, that goes along with this holiday. It sort of creeps in like a fog.

 

The longest, darkest night of the year is the winter solstice, December 21.  Against that backdrop, Christmas has become a celebration of the light Isaiah prophesied about so long ago, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.  (Isa. 9:2, NIV)  It is also a celebration of love in which our heavenly Father gave us the greatest and most expensive gift in the universe, His only son. Isaiah prophesied about Him, “The government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. (Isa. 9:6-7, NIV)

 

There have been countless books written, sermons preached, homilies spoken, songs sang, poems read, and endless movies made about the peace and love and joy that the Christmas holiday brings. And yet looking around at the fast-paced marathon that many folks run this time of year, the hustle and bustle, the insincerity as well as the downright meanness of the Grinches and Scrooges, some times I have to ask, where IS the peace? Where IS the love?

 

For all the hand wringing, catalog searching, sales shopping, and scurrying to get the best price on the best gift, we all know that none of it fills the bill of what people really need or want. Somebody sent me a graphic that read, “The older I get, the more I know that what I want for Christmas is not sold in any store.”  Politicians loudly proclaim that if we elect them for president they will give us peace. Religious leaders and most of us pray for peace.  Again I ask, where IS it?  Peace can be enjoyed in only one place: the Lord Himself!  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you; I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. (John 14:27, NIV)

 

Maybe that’s why we give gifts, because we can’t really give folks what they want or need. What most people want for sure, I think, is 1) to know that God loves us and 2) to know that we are capable of loving others.  The older I get and the more strife and violence I see in the world, the more I realize that love is the only answer for every malady, every pain, every illness, every disappointment, and every hurt that any of us ever experience. Clearly, it’s not for sale, but where IS it?

 

This probably will sound simplistic, but it really is simple. Paul said that Christ WITHIN us is our hope of glory; He IS our peace; He IS the Prince of Peace and because he lives in us, all our Christmas miracles live within us as well. The greatest miracle ever given to mankind is God’s love, His unconditional love.  And since He dwells in us, that’s where His love dwells as well.  This means, Christ in us is the best Christmas gift we have to give others. It’s free; it’s fulfilling, and it’s oh, so deliciously satisfying.

 

How do we get His marvelous essence to flow out of us into other people, you ask?   The same way we do any work God planned for us before the foundation of the world.  Jesus told us how:  “Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. (John 7:38, NIV)

 

Religious leaders, self help teachers, and gurus in general, attempted to tell us how to do these things but basically they are beyond our grasp, our abilities. When we try to do them on our own, they are hay, wood and stubble that gets burned up in the refining fire, but when He does it through us, God gets the glory and we get to see His Love in action.

 

In the words of Isaiah, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’  Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” (Isa. 6:8, RSV)  Who will You send to deliver the Good News, Lord?  Here am I, send me.  If an old messenger with creaky knee and spine, and the tendency to whine, can serve, here am I, Lord, send me.  If You do the work, and You spread the love, Lord, I’m Your messenger.  Here am I, send me.  

 

You ARE the Christmas gift someone wants and needs this year and so am I!

 

Last year about this time, I published a blog piece entitled “A Love Letter from Jesus.”  The poem quoted by Rhett Miller moved me then and still does today.  It’s a good description of what we all want and need from God.  Here it is again:

 

HERE IT IS CHRISTMAS TIME

 

When we were born we were swaddled and snuggled

Whispered to, fussed over, tickled and cuddled

When we grow up, things get muddled

And here it is, Christmas time.

And we all want someone, who’ll love us and hold us

To curl up alongside, when nights are the coldest

And we all want someone, who’ll hug us and kiss us

All I want is you for Christmas

Let us examine the holiday spirit

Let the small kids sing so we can all hear it

Light up a fire and pull the chair near it

Cuz here it is, Christmas time

And we all want someone, who’ll love us and hold us,

To curl up alongside, when nights are the coldest

And we all want someone, who’ll hug us and kiss us

All I want is you for Christmas

When we are born we are swaddled and snuggled

Whispered to, fussed over, tickled, and cuddled

When we grow up, things get muddled

And here it is Christmas time

We all want someone who’ll love us and hold us

To curl up alongside, when nights are the coldest

And we all want someone, who’ll hug us and kiss us

All I want is you (Jesus) for Christmas

All I want is you for Christmas.

And all the Saints said, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT [Jan A. Antonsson] 12-11-15          3

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