“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
They say the best things in life are free. Yet every year the day after Thanksgiving (well, now you barely have time to eat your last bite of pumpkin pie) the stores open and people rush the gates like race horses at the Kentucky Derby. Even now there are people everywhere still scrambling to find that last perfect present or two.
I wonder if we really do believe the best things in life are free. All the frenzied waving of credit cards is really just a distraction, a way to make Christmas mean something when we fail to make it about Christ. And it’s hard to do that when He hasn’t been Lord the other 364 days a year.
Thanksgiving Day I was in the kitchen, as I am every Thanksgiving, going about the cooking I’ve now gotten down to a science, when I stole a moment to take a peek through our kitchen window which faces the front of our house. The streets were lined with cars that had brought family and friends to spend Thanksgiving with so many neighbors. It made me feel just a little bit lonely.
I love my family, my husband and our two sons whom we’re still blessed to have at home, but we have no extended family we’re able to spend the holidays with.
I didn’t have much of a family life growing up, so it was always my dream to have huge family gatherings at the holidays, the house full of laughing, eating, cooking, and a dozen different conversations going on a once, catching each other up on our lives, our victories and our defeats, encouraging and loving each other, so that when the day was done we’d be as full in our hearts as we were in our bellies.
A long time ago, though, I accepted the house would be a little less full and a little more quiet. That it would be just the four of us, and I’m happy with that. Still, I couldn’t help but peer out the window a time or two (maybe three) more and caught a glimpse of all those cars in front of so many other houses.
Instead I’ve filled the holidays with one of the few talents I did have: mad baking skills. I started baking when my kids were tiny and we didn’t have enough money for store-bought birthday cakes. I started collecting cookbooks and practicing the art of cake making, frosting, and decorating. I bought all kinds of frosting tips and every food coloring in the rainbow. I practiced my royal icing roses. My mouth full of sweet teeth had me quickly expanding to almost any kind of cookie, pastry and dessert you can think of.
And when the holidays rolled around I’d have a field day. I’d stock up on flour and sugar and butter and chocolate and peppermint candies. I’d pore through my hundreds of recipes of Christmas cookies and delectable desserts and wonder which to bake first. Wedding cookies or Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels? And there are always cream cheese frostinged cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.
But now I have health issues that make it almost impossible to enjoy eating sugar or any kind of carbohydrate. Oh I can eat it, I just have to be willing to face the consequences when I do. My family is trying to eat healthier, too. So every year I’ve baked less and less, and this year I haven’t done any. Yet we are inundated with messages that for Christmas to be Christmas we should indulge in one sugar-laced treat after another. But since I can’t it’s just one more thing that can make me feel like I’m somehow outside the party peering in.
There are other things, too, that getting older make celebrating Christmas the way I’d like very difficult or impossible.
Sometimes, when we’ve been stripped away of so much that the world says we must have and do to be happy, God is able to show us what’s most important. To see what the best things in life really are.
No matter what gifts I’ve been given, the best by far will always be my salvation. Ultimately, of course, I am forever indebted to Christ for dying for me, and to the Holy Spirit for pursuing me, opening my eyes, and revealing to me my need for a Savior. Regardless of what I am not able to have in this life, eternity will be filled with family and feasting. Relationships will be restored and my body will be perfect. This life is only temporary. Eternity’s forever. And I’m looking forward to it!
I would not have that hope if it weren’t for the willingness of some to offer prayers and the honest teaching of God’s Word. Those were gifts to me, gifts I could never afford. Gifts that are free.
And now I, and many of you, are in the position to be able to offer those gifts to others. No credit card needed. Some may not open their gift of salvation right away, perhaps for years. But even seeds are gifts. Water is a gift.
So maybe it’s time to slow down and allow those things the world says we must have in order to have Christmas be stripped away. Maybe it’s time to give a gift that would last for eternity. Maybe you’re a seed-bearer, or a waterer. Maybe you’re a harvester.
Wherever God would have you be in the process, give a gift of your gifts. Your spiritual gifts have been given to you to not only to encourage fellow believers, but to bring truth to unbelievers. There is no better gift than the truth that leads to salvation.
One phrase that I hear over and over every Christmas season that’s become a pet peeve of mine, is when someone uses the word Christmas in place of the word gifts. “She won’t be able to give her kids Christmas.” “They won’t have a Christmas.”
Even the Grinch came to understand Christmas when he’d stripped the Whos of all he thought would make them happy, yet their joy on Christmas morning was undeterred and unrestrained.
“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow.
But the sound wasn’t sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Whoville! The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!”
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
A little bit more indeed. A lot more. It means the birth of our precious Savior who came to give us the best gift of all.
So if you’re struggling this year, I hope you’ll take heart,
And know that this life we live here is just the start!
Christ was born in a manger for you and for me
And He died to give us eternity.
So wherever you are, whatever you do
Remember that Jesus, yes Jesus loves you!
He gave you salvation and that’s the key
To knowing the best thing in life is free.
So remember that Christmas doesn’t come from a mart
It comes when we let JESUS fill up our heart!
So store up for yourselves treasures in heaven
Give the gift of telling others how they can be forgiven!
Merry Christmas and God bless you!