Tomorrow, December 21, is the feast day of Saint Thomas. Here is a suggested reading from The Book of Common Prayer:
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: [then] came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace [be] unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust [it] into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed. (John 20:24-29 KJV)
Most people enjoy tangible, concrete things. I know I do. There are a lot of things we’d have a hard time surviving without. It is in that spirit that for most of us, Christmas presents the challenge of gifting. We feel gifts are expected, that somehow our love for others doesn’t exist unless we offer a gift—tangible proof of our love. Or, without realizing it, we may be feeding a need in ourselves, a need to show off by virtue of extravagance or to feed a shopping addiction. After all, we’re buying for others, so it’s okay to shop, right? I’ve noticed that shopping addicts tend to gift things they like with little regard for the recipient’s wishes.
The folly of overindulging in gift giving continues to roost with me as I help my mother sort her belongings. The majority of things she has no need for gave the gift-giver, and perhaps her, a momentary spark of joy. But later, a figurine, a ridiculously large makeup pallet, a plaque with a funny saying have become junk. Most of these gifts were from people she wasn’t that close to, and so were vague enough not to offend; hence they don’t capture the heart. We donate various items to a thrift store in hopes that someone else will think our junk is a treasure. And for what? To employ slave labor overseas? To churn the cycle of consumption? To keep garbage collectors and landfill employees working?
I’m not telling anyone to stop celebrating Christmas in any way that brings them joy and honors the Lord. I love giving gifts that are truly wanted and appreciated. What I am saying, as we celebrate Christmas and beyond, is that we don’t need to take the doubting spirit of Saint Thomas with us. Rather, let us celebrate the life of Christ by doing everything we can to show His love every day. Yes, that love can take the form of a tangible gift. But it doesn’t have to.
I have found that the more I know I am loved by a person because of who that person is and how they make me feel, the less obsessed I am by whether that person sends me a card or gives me a gift of any kind at any occasion. I know I’m loved so I don’t need the proof of a gift.
With love, every day can be the Christmas season.
Love is what I wish for you. Merry Christmas!