What is your favorite part of the Christmas season?  I know there are significant elements of the holiday season that are irritating or even downright painful for some.  But for many of us, there are so many special layers to the Christmas season.  What’s your favorite?  The food?  The time away from school or work?  The extra time with family and special friends?  Opening gifts?  Giving gifts?  Shopping for gifts?  Christmas lights and decorations?  Christmas trees?  Christmas music?  That special church service?  Live nativity scenes?  The hope of snow?

I really like a lot of the things on this list.  But for me, I think there is nothing quite like the challenge and joy of shopping for just the right gifts for those on my Christmas short list.  Whether it’s that big special gift, or just the little variety of knick-knackery to put in the stocking, I love this part of Christmas!  I guess it brings out my best: really thinking of others, trying to understand and appreciate others as very special individuals, and trying to bless those people in a way that touches the heart and soul.

And I suppose this is why “The Gift of the Magi” is my favorite story to read every year at Christmastime.  If you have never read this beautiful short story about Della and Jim, and the love and generosity they share with one another, I invite you to take about ten minutes, click the link I provided, and enjoy this rich blessing now.  It’s an older story, so some of the language is a bit outdated and unfamiliar, but it is such a wonderful inspiration.  Go ahead, read it for yourself.  The rest of my post will be here when you’re done…

What if we brought this thoughtful, generous, self-sacrificing spirit with us beyond Christmas to share with the world around us all year long?  WOW!  What if I took as much delight in folding laundry, doing dishes, or completing household repairs as I do when I find that perfect little something for my wife’s stocking?  What if I was as thrilled about taking time to help my son with challenging schoolwork as I am about giving him that little collectable I know he wants?  What if I was as joyful about greeting and offering genuine kindness to some random person of another race at night in a dark parking lot as I am about telling my cashier, “Merry Christmas!”?  What if I put as much priority on reaching out to that person I know has been hurting for months from deep personal loss or struggle as I do on making sure my family Christmas cards get to all the right people at the right addresses?

What if I regularly shared gifts of love, compassion, and sacrifice with people to the point where it really cost me dearly, and blessed them to the point where their hearts simply burst forth with tears?  What if I decided the spirit of Christmas was a way of life – a calling to be as generous with those around me as I believe God has been with me?  What if I lived with eagerness to bless those who don’t expect blessings from me, and to do it in ways where I get little or no “credit,” but God gets the glory in ways that inspire hope in those who are touched?

God, Father of that precious perfect Babe in the manger, will you help me experience the answers to these questions?  Despite my best intentions, I know I am simply not good enough to live up to this calling on my own.  But I want to be.  And because of that, I call out to the only One who can transform me into this kind of man.  So, God, here I am this Christmas season, asking you to make of me what you will, so that Jesus can be even more present in this soul-sick world.

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