“And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15 (italics mine)
I came across this verse on the same week I began my Christmas shopping. Not exactly the angle that most advertisers are taking on the holiday season, but it’s one that’s been ringing in my ears as I browse through shelves of toys and dig around the Target dollar spot (because bargains make my world go ’round, y’all).
The ads and commercials and billboards are pulling out all the stops, per the usual: BUY MORE, SAVE MORE! or SPEND MORE, WORRY LESS! <– What?! Can we just stop and think about that slogan for a minute?
Meanwhile, Jesus’ words bounce around my brain, calmly stating the obvious, per the usual: “Your stuff is not your life, Rachel.”
That includes the stuff I give to other people. You know, like, Christmas present stuff.
I’m spending Thanksgiving with my family this year and since I won’t be able to see my nieces around Christmas, I’m passing along their presents to my sister and bro-in-law for safekeeping. Who knows if the presents will make it back to their home unopened or not, but if I become known as the aunt who brings Christmas early, well. I’m OK with that. 😉
Every time I get to see my family I am completely undone in anticipation. I can’t wait to scoop up my nieces and nephews and blow bubbles on their bellies and sing Frozen with them to give their long-suffering parents a break. I’m excited to pester my brother about his beard and listen to my sisters talk about their writing endeavors and eat everything my mom makes (because her work is ALL MAGICAL) and share a cup of coffee with my dad. The list of all the things I’m most excited about have absolutely nothing to do with stuff. For the record, my mom’s cooking doesn’t count as “stuff” because again, IT IS MAGIC.
I know that Jesus is not anti-stuff or anti-gift-giving because as He was walking the earth He appreciated when people gave Him gifts (Mark 14:6) and He encourages those who follow Him to give freely to one another out of love. I also know I worship a God who is generous and delights to give to His children (James 1:17).
So, when Jesus tells me my life is not about my stuff, He isn’t telling me to never buy gifts for my loved ones, He’s warning me of the slippery mindset that tells me I have to prove something through those gifts.
If I’m not careful, I start to use gifts as a means to make up for all the insecurities I carry around about how not-perfect I am.
“I don’t call home enough during the year so I better buy mom and dad something awesome for Christmas.” “I hardly ever see my nieces and nephews so buying them incredible gifts is the only chance I have to be known as a cool aunt.”
I get tangled up inside about how inadequate and not good enough my gifts are, how they fall short of really communicating how I feel. When really, I’m focusing on all the wrong things.
The truth is, you won’t find great conversations or heartfelt apologies wrapped up and sitting under the Christmas tree this year. No one is going to bottle your children’s laughter and slip it into your stocking or present you with a DVD of all the uneventful Wednesday afternoons you spent cleaning or working or emailing. Yet that’s what your life consists of — unpredictable moments of happiness, seasons of deep pain, and ordinary days made possible by the grace of an extraordinary God.
By all means, buy some fun gifts for your loved ones, wrap them up in neat little packages and place them under the tree. But let’s leave them to be the happy icing on the cake of the really good “stuff” in our lives. Let’s bring all of our insecurities and not-good-enoughness to the table and simply enjoy the company of people who are (praise be to God) just as insecure and not-good-enough.
If we can’t find time to just love and be loved this Holiday season, we’ve completely missed the point of Christmas:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.