Christmas Then and Now

Christmas presents wrapped in brown paper with red and white string and a red ornament on top.


Recently, a friend asked me an interesting question.  He prefaced the question by saying that I have lived through a lot of Christmases.  He was correct!  He then said, “What’s different about the way you celebrate Christmas now in your 80s than the way you celebrated Christmas as a child?”  That’s a great question.

I had to reflect on it a little bit, and the answer became very clear.  The first Christmas I remember is when my Dad was serving First Methodist Church of Notasulga, AL, in the early 1940s.  I remember my parents asking me what I would like Santa Claus to bring me for Christmas.  Times were tough back then.  My Dad had just gone into the ministry, but they wanted me to enjoy Christmas.  I listed 3 or 4 things that a 3-year-old kid would ask for.

I’ll never forget that first Christmas morning.  I walked into the living room and displayed on the couch was everything that I had asked for.  I couldn’t believe it!  I was one happy kid!

Reflecting back on that today, what I asked for was not expensive at all.  I’d never been exposed to anything very expensive.  My parents had sacrificed to be sure that I would get what I wanted.

Turn the calendar over about seven decades.  What’s different about Christmas now?

My biggest lesson is that I am learning to not make “what do you want for Christmas?” the important question.  The more important question is “what do I want to give this Christmas?”  That’s a huge shift for me – and for anybody.  I have been learning that the joy of giving greatly exceeds the joy of getting.

I remember hearing a story of a woman who one day found a very valuable piece of jewelry.  She put it in a bag.  Later, she was confronted by a man who was hungry and asked for something to eat.  When she reached in her bag for some bread, the man saw the valuable stone.  He asked her to give him the stone, which she readily did – she also gave him bread.

The man thought that he really had received a lot.  He was on top of the world.  But he realized that neither the bread nor the valuable stone brought ultimate happiness.

He searched until he found the woman and returned the valuable piece to her.  He said, “I am returning the stone in hopes of getting something even more valuable from you.”  When the woman asked what that could be, the man says, “Please give me what you have that enabled you to give me that piece of jewelry.”  

The heart that wants to give is more important than the heart focused on receiving.  Only God can give that kind of a heart.  I wonder how many requests He has. “The greedy only wants to get, the Godly only wants to give.” (Proverbs 21:26)

The question about Christmas is really a question about life.  I really don’t know much about the heart of radical generosity – I’m learning.  I’m discovering that it is a far better gift than something that is received.

I loved that first Christmas in Notasulga, AL.  I also love this upcoming Christmas in Montgomery.  I love what I’m learning, and I want to learn more!

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