Friday, December 02, 2005

True Gifts

“And what a difference between our sin and God's generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's bountiful gift.”
                         ~ Romans 5:15 (NLT)

     With all the discussion about whether it’s appropriate to wish people a Merry Christmas or whether we should simply use the generic greeting, “Happy Holidays” – I’d just like to say one thing: Christmas is what Christmas is, just as Hanukkah is what Hanukkah is – and no one should have to apologize for that. Whether a particular holiday is set aside to honor a past president, veterans of war, Martin Luther King, or any other entity or religion, changing the name doesn’t change the original meaning.  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who came to Earth to save us from our sins.  How (or whether) individuals choose to participate in the celebration is up to them.
     The following poem was written by my friend, Pat Barrett:
Why Do We Celebrate Christmas?
By Patricia Kohls Barrett

It’s that time of year again
Decorations are up in the store
Advertisements try to entice us
To buy two, three, or four

We check last year’s decorations
To see if we need some more
We hang fragrant green wreaths
To welcome who come to the door

People hurry, scurry and rush
As they count the calendar days
Running around like little mice
Scampering through the maze

Is this why we celebrate Christmas
To get caught up in flurry and hype?
Do we appreciate the true meaning
Or negatively complain and gripe?

If we stop and listen to the music
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
Listen to the words and message
The reason to celebrate we’ll hear

The baby born in a manger
Wasn’t just a homeless infant
God Himself became human
For our sakes from heaven was sent

He left his glory in heaven
Because of great love for all sinners
He came to die on the cross
All who believe can be winners

Attention and contemplation
Of such incredible, wonderful love
Gives reason for praise and adoration
Of our wonderful God up above

It’s the real reason to celebrate
Gives us peace and a big smile
Rejoice, be happy and praise Him
The motive was there all the while.

“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” ~Psalm 9:1

Pat’s poem not only captures the true meaning of Christmas, it also addresses the hectic pace that is typically associated with the various holiday preparations.

Every year I struggle with becoming overwhelmed by the stress that comes from having too much to do in too little time. So this year I broke a record by mailing my Christmas cards out a few days after Thanksgiving. I am also endeavoring to de-emphasize the material aspect of Christmas, by keeping the amount of money I spend on gifts within a reasonable limit.

Some of you may recall reading the following poem I wrote several years ago about the gift of time.  In my opinion, it is and always will be the greatest gift you can offer your loved ones – not only at Christmas, but all year through.

The Greatest Gift
By Eileen Umbehr

The greatest gift of all
Isn’t diamonds or gold
The greatest gift of all
Never rusts or gets old

The greatest gift of all
Isn’t being wined or dined
The greatest gift of all
Is the easiest to find

The greatest gift of all
Isn’t the latest craze
The greatest gift of all
Lasts more than three days

The greatest gift of all
Can’t be purchased in a store
It comes straight from the heart
And lasts forevermore

Yes, the greatest gift of all
Doesn’t cost a dime
For the greatest gift of all
Is the gift of time.  

“. . . [T]he only true gift is a portion of thyself.”
                   ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

     Someone emailed me the following list of eight gifts that don’t cost a cent:

      But you must REALLY listen.
      No interrupting, no daydreaming,
      no planning your response. Just listening.

       Be generous with hugs, kisses, pats on the back,
       and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate
       the love you have for family and friends.

      Clip cartoons.
      Share articles and funny stories.
      Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you."

        It can be a simple, “Thanks for the help" note,
        or a full sonnet.  A brief, handwritten note may
        be remembered for a lifetime, and may even change a life.

       A simple and sincere,
       "You look great in red," "You did a super job,"
       or "That was a wonderful meal" can make someone's day.

       Every day go out of your way to do something kind.

       There are times when we want nothing better
       than to be left alone. Be sensitive to those times
       and give the gift of solitude to others.

       The easiest way to feel good is to extend
       a kind word to someone, really it is not that
       hard to say, “Hello,” or “Thank You.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  
~ Leo Buscaglia

Author Unknown

To a Friend: Loyalty
To an Enemy: Forgiveness
To your Boss: Service
To your Child: Patience and a Good Example
To your Father: Honor
To your Mother: Gratitude and Devotion
To your Spouse: Love and Faithfulness
To Yourself: Respect
To All Men and Women: Charity
To God: Your Life

In closing, I’d like to share a poem which was written by another gifted poet and friend of mine, Gale Rogers.  Gale said that he was trying to show and tell about some of the gifts he received growing up. “Sad or melancholy as the poem might seem,” he wrote, “I wanted to make the reader think what Christmas is all about, by comparing the impending traditional gifts one looks forward to and the real gift that is the true meaning of Christmas . . . .”

By Gale Rogers

I remember Christmas past with memories that forever will last.

I remember fresh green fir trees lit with lights and multicolored glass balls.  Mistletoe, strings of cranberries and popcorn hanging on gala decorated walls.

I remember stockings filled to the brim with oranges, apples and sticky ribbon candy. Pencils, small wooden toys, nuts handkerchiefs and other things so handy.

I remember going caroling, while holding hands with a very special girl. Followed, by hot chocolate back at the church and peppermint canes of red and white swirl.

I remember being a shepherd, in the church play about the Birth. My first Midnight Mass with a friend, and the gifts of incense and myrrh.

I remember the American flyer, maroon and white. How it did gleam beside the tree brand new, with a horn and a big chrome headlight.

I remember Lincoln logs, spinning tops, and tinker toys. Footballs, bats, new overalls a pair of mittens and other gifts for boys.

I remember Shirley Temple dolls, with hair hanging in curls. China playhouse dishes, ribbons, bows, fancy skirts, story book dolls and other presents for girls.

I remember the gathering and the warmth, shared by family and friends. Exchanging cards with those far away, singing "White Christmas" and other old trends.

I remember a Christmas when family, was scattered from Texas to Nome.  How sad it was that year, knowing we could not be home.

I remember my children's first Christmas, and their impending glee. How happy I was to be able to give them their very own memory.

But most of all I stop, to remember just why. Nothing will ever compare to the gift given long ago, when a single star shone in Eastern sky.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”    ~ John 3:16 (KJV)