Is your Christmas shopping getting too expensive?

One of the chief indictments of our Christmas holiday is that it has become a materialistic event instead of a sacred celebration.  I did an internet search on expensive Christmas gifts.  On Amazon you can get 18 carat diamond and sapphire necklace – $114,000 or Clive Christian Imperial Majesty Perfume fro men – $435,000. It’s too late, but on eBay you could have purchased a Gulfstream jet for $40 million, a 405 foot yacht for $140 million, the town of Albert, Texas for $2.5 million, 2002 Enzo Ferarri sports car for $1 million; a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card for $1.2 million,  or a pair of pre-1900 Levi’s 501 jeans for $60,000.

This year, of all years, such gifts may seem absurd. Still, many people trust in things to bring them happiness.  My real concern is not that we give too much; it is that we don’t give enough!  We don’t give enough of the right gifts to those who need them most.

This year I hope you will give love. The original Christmas was a story of love and helps us understand this best Christmas gift. You can read the story in Matthew 1:18-25.

Joseph and Mary were in love with each other. They also both loved the Lord. But Mary was in a position that her love for Joseph and the Lord was called into question. She was pregnant and the baby wasn’t Joseph’s. How would he respond? His love for God would not allow Him to marry her. His love for Mary would not allow Him to have her stoned. So he chose a quiet divorce. In those days, an engagement was as binding as marriage and could only be broken by a divorce.

But just as God had chosen Mary to give birth to His Son, He chose Joseph to be His adoptive father. In a dream, God explained to Joseph that Mary was pregnant due to a miracle. Though Mary was told that she would become miraculously pregnant, Joseph appears to have been given an option.

Joseph was asked to commit his life to something none of us could ever imagine.  He was to stand with Mary and accept the child God was bringing into the world through her. He was to care for this son as his own, indeed, as his firstborn and therefore most favored child. He was to endure the embarrassment, the questions, and the uncertainties. For sure it would jeopardize his occupation.

The story of Joseph’s side of the birth of Christ demonstrates the value of relationships. Joseph chose love for the Lord and for Mary over the convenience of a quiet divorce.

Two principles will help us choose to give love this Christmas.

Relationships are more important than accomplishments or accumulations.

Joseph completely jeopardized his future because of His love for the Lord and his love for Mary. He chose relationships over accomplishments or accumulations.

Do you remember the short story of “The Gift of the Magi”? A poor couple had no money to buy Christmas presents for each other. So Della decided to sell her hair to buy a chain for Jim’s treasured pocked watch. Jim decided to sell his pocket watch to buy Della a set of combs for her beautiful long hair. That night as they opened their gifts, they realized each sacrificed for each other.  Jim said, “Della, let’s put our Christmas gifts away and keep them awhile. They’re too nice to use now. “ The author, O. Henry, finished his short story by reminding us …“The magi were wise men who brought gifts to the newborn Christ-child. They were the first Christmas gifts. .. I have told you the story of two children who …sold the most valuable thing he owned in order to buy a gift for the other… of all who give gifts, these were the most wise.”

Make sure you don’t jeopardize your relationship with those you love by emphasizing the things you possess or the means to get them.

True riches are not found in the accumulation of wealth but in the investment of love.

Joseph had a choice to make. He chose love. Love for God and love for Mary. He chose to think of others rather than himself.

For many people, Santa Clause is the primary figure of Christmas. But the traditional story behind Santa may help us re-center our priority. 

Nicholas was born 300 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born to some wealthy parents in the city of Pantara (area of modern day Turkey) around 270 A.D. and lived until about 350 A.D. His parents raised him in the church but they suddenly died from a plague that struck the area when he was just five-years-old. It was then that Nicholas went to live with his uncle who happened to be a monk. Through his uncle’s influence, Nicholas became a monk also. Since monks are not to be wealthy, Nicholas wanted to use his inheritance to help people. His life of giving is what gave way to the legend that we have today in Santa Claus. You see the Dutch who settled in the early days of New York called St. Nicholas – “Sinterklass” which is how got the name “Santa Claus.” His royal red robe, white beard, and giving heart transformed into the American version that we have today. Santa Claus was actually a religious man who chose to give away all his possessions to help others.

Christmas is a great time to value all your relationships. 

Give the gift money cannot buy – give yourself; give your love. 

After all, that’s what God did.