By Jonathan Decker, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
I’m not sure how I’d feel if for my birthday, my friends gave gifts to everyone but me. Yet that’s exactly what Jesus wants, if the scriptures are to be believed. One of his most familiar teachings gains fresh meaning when applied to the Christmas season:
“I was an hungered and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me to drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when [did we do these things]? And the King shall answer and say unto them: Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-40; shortened for brevity).
The Christmas application of this teaching—though it is worthwhile year-round—is that if we want to give Jesus something for his birthday, we should give to others. I don’t mean the requisite Blu-rays, blouses, and toys that we give to our loved ones. Those have their place when they don’t become the primary focus of the season of course, but Christ told us that if we want to do anything for him, we must lift the very real burdens of others.
In your friends, families, and acquaintances, is there someone lonely who would benefit from your conversation? Among those you know, is there someone for whom the holidays are particularly rough time of year? Whom do you know that is sick and could use a visit? Do you have any relatives in jail whose spirits would be lifted by a letter, email, phone call, or package? In what ways can you give to the poor? Do you know someone who’s financially unable to provide gifts for their children? If you don’t, there are plenty of options in your community to buy gifts for the families of strangers.
With a small amount of effort, I’ve no doubt that you can find someone to serve, someone to cheer, and someone to help. Doing so, and involving others in the process, is the best way to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is the only way to have a truly merry Christmas. It is the one birthday present which, upon opening, we can almost hear him say: “I love it! It’s exactly what I wanted!”
Happy holidays, my friends.