So many millions of things to say, so little space to say them. I’ll talk about Christmas.
The thing I’ve recently come to love about Christmas is how aptly it reflects our relationship to God. And maybe not in the way you’d initially think. Of course, Christmas represents Christ’s coming into the world, invading space and time, affecting history, to show his love for us and redeem a fallen human race. That certainly speaks to God’s relationship with us. But in another, possibly more American, way, the nature of Christmas itself represents how we relate to God.
Growing up in the NJ suburbs, I come from a decently well-off family. I say this not to brag (since I am personally, effectively poor) but to add the immediate caveat that my Christmas experience may have been different from others’. ( I guess it had to be, since everyone’s experiences are different.) Still, regardless of status, every Christmas was the same when I was a child. I woke up on December 25 around 5 or 6 am (if I had even managed to sleep the night before). I would probably be awake with my younger sister so we would run into my parent’s room and beg them if we could open presents. Invariably they would tell us to wait (probably because they were tired) and so hours felt like years as we tried to pass the time. Finally, we could go upstairs and open gifts.
Christmas was exciting because I couldn’t wait to see what gifts there were for me under the tree. One year it was a GameBoy, another it was a Playstation 2. Once it was a scooter, another year brought a globe. But eventually, around high school or so, I began to wake up later on Christmas morning. I stopped being excited about what I would get. And at first it was because I knew I probably wouldn’t get anything great. But later it was for a totally different reason.
There came a moment when I stopped caring about what cool thing I got for Christmas and instead I was really interested in what cool thing I could give. I really wanted to see the smile or surprise or excitement on my brother or sister’s face. And I didn’t want to wake up early anymore because I just wanted to be awake when they were.
I think our relationship with God is similar. At first, we desperately seek his “good gifts”. I don’t put that in quotes because it’s not true, but because that in itself becomes our only joy. We always wonder what we can get from God, what he will give us. And knowledge that he’s bringing something great is enough to get us out of bed each morning, or even keep us from sleeping all night. Yet as we mature, we are able to bring more to the table. We want to give God everything, including ourselves, because we know how great it is to see God smile. And sometimes during this time period, we know there won’t be anything under the metaphorical tree for us, we’re just excited to see God bless others and use us in the process.
I can’t remember every gift I received during those years of early morning Christmases. That doesn’t invalidate them or diminish them, it’s just the truth. I don’t remember every gift I’ve given a family member or friend at Christmas. But I do remember the feeling. I remember the child-like feeling of knowing you’re going to get something awesome (I also remember sometimes being disappointed but that doesn’t work super well with this metaphor) and I remember the more adult-like feeling of seeing someone you love receive something they really want. And I love both feelings (though I’ve come to love giving gifts much more than receiving them).
Christmas is arguably my favorite holiday, and I think it’s for this reason. It’s one of the only times of year in American culture when you can give everyone you love something they could really use and you get to see the look on their faces when they get it. It’s just such a great Jesus metaphor. In the same vein, I also really like other people’s birthdays.