I used to go overboard when it came to celebrating Christmas. I bought lots of gifts, spent a lot of time decorating the house, cooked way too much food and went to lots of parties. When all was said and done, I was exhausted and relieved it was all over. But over the years, I’ve realized that in observing all these Yuletide traditions, I’ve missed the whole point. And that is to focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, our redeemer God who taught us how to live a life of humility.
Some of the symbols and stories of the season point us in the right direction: Take the Christmas poinsettia, which will richly decorate our church for the next few weeks. There’s a lovely Mexican legend about this flower. It’s about a little boy who was too poor to leave a gift at the altar on Christmas Eve. So he gathered some weeds from the side of the road and laid them below the cross at his church. During the service, the congregation watched as a miracle occurred — the weeds turned into brilliant red flowers.
I also like the song Little Drummer Boy, which tells another story of a child who has nothing of monetary value to give to the Christ child. Unlike the Magi, who bring gold and other extravagant gifts, all he has is his drum and its pa rum pum pum pum beat. As the lyrics tell us, the baby Jesus smiles at him as the Little Drummer Boy makes music to honor him.
The point seems to be that God is happy with whatever gifts we can give him. He honors even the smallest offering of praise. There’s a lesson in these stories.
For me, a person who has rarely suffered want of any kind, it’s that I would do well this Christmas to spend more time in prayer, thanksgiving and meditation. I would do well to ponder the real meaning of Christmas rather than wear myself out shopping, cooking and decorating.
God grant me the grace to follow through on this calling.
Sheila Allee Kershaw