Are you making plans for Christmas this year? That’s almost a foolish question, isn’t it?
We all are making plans, even if not formally, our heads are already spinning with thoughts of where to go, what Christmas programs to watch, what gifts to buy (or make), what Christmas cards to send, which services to attend, what food to prepare and whether or not to prepare it this year.
And those questions are just the beginning!
Owen Williams and his wife befriended their elderly neighbor when they moved into their home three years ago. When their daughter, Cadi, came along two years ago, neighbor Ken Watson became a grandfather figure. Then Watson died in October.
A few days later Watson’s daughter stopped by the Williams home with a large bag. She was dropping off 14 wrapped Christmas presents her father had bought and wrapped for Cadi.
Williams said, “I kept reaching into the bag and pulling out more presents. You could have knocked me over with a feather. It was quite something.”
Williams wrote: “My wife and I think it might make a nice Christmas tradition to give our daughter ‘a present from Ken’ for the next 14 years. The issue is, we really have to open them now. Nobody wants to give a fifteen-year-old Duplo!”
He posted on Twitter to spread some Christmas spirit. He also wrote that he wasn’t sure whether he should open them, check them out and then re-wrap them for Cadi. In that way she would have an age-appropriate one each year.
To date, more than 67,000 people have weighed in about the gifts on Williams’ Twitter poll, many saying that Watson’s kindness brought them to tears.
Williams said the majority voted for a “lucky dip,” meaning not opening them ahead of time, just giving Cadi one mystery present a year. He said, “It will be a lovely way to remember Ken. We’ll do one a year for the next 14 years. If she opens a box of Legos when she’s 16 then so be it.”
He said he was struck by how many people have responded by saying their neighbors are virtual strangers to them.
“The thing that stands out to me is how few people know their neighbors,” Williams said. “People are saying, ‘That’s so lovely. I don’t even know my neighbors.’ … This Christmas, take your neighbors … a small gift, a token. Just say, ‘Hi.’ You can open a new world like we did.”
Since moving to the great (and warm) state of Florida, we have taken Mr. Williams’ advice seriously. Usually one or two family members are here for our Christmas celebration, but we have discovered that a great many of our neighbors find themselves here and alone for Christmas. So we have endeavored to reach out to them and invite them to join us for our Christmas (Day) celebration each year.
The first year we were here, there were a mere 15 of us together. Last Christmas, 17 of our neighbors joined us. This year, if all goes as planned, we should have around 22 of us gathering in our living room and dining room together to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Our celebration will include a Christmas brunch, a birthday party for Jesus, and yes, perhaps, a golf outing as well – after all, it is Florida!
But the central theme of our time together is the fact that we all NEED Christmas! From Genesis to Revelation, the importance of the Christmas story is proclaimed. And all one has to do is turn on the evening news for about two minutes to realize that we live in a sin-infested world and are in desperate need of a Savior.
We do all in our limited power to attempt to fill the void created by our sinful lives, but it is all for naught. The STUFF of Christmas is no substitute for the SAVIOR!
Most Christmas celebrations that I have attended tend to magnify the arrival and birth of gentle and sweet baby Jesus. There is nothing wrong with that, but celebrating Christmas then should be a reminder of WHY Jesus came, not just THAT He came.
Our Christmas celebrations should be more than family, food, and gift-giving. Our celebration should focus on the fact that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
So this year, let’s keep Christ in Christmas. But I am not talking about a mere word. I’m speaking of a person.
Let’s reach out to family and friends, and not be afraid to give gifts to each other – even fourteen of them if necessary!
But let’s each do our part to celebrate the Savior first and foremost of all!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.