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!
In October, I read a library book I thought would be helpful regarding a career decision my son was contemplating. I sent it off to him, “Merry Christmas!” The older both he and I get, the less concerned we are about the season, the more concerned we are about the need. Love knows no season.
Christmas blessings to all of you.
Damon J. Gray
Oh Tammi, Tammie, Tammy … I LOVE this post. Just yesterday I was pondering this very thing on my commute to work.
At the risk of sounding like a Scrooge, why do we feel obligated to participate in this indulgence. And it is not the participation that is my focus here because, like you, I really enjoy giving gifts of love to special people in my life, but it is the obligatory aspect of it that had my mind racing.
“Well, I have to get a gift for Chuck, and then there’s Francis, and Patty is always SO hard to buy for.” All of that “hafta” stuff is driving me nuts. What would happen if we just got together as a family, enjoyed a lovely meal that, perhaps, we even helped create, and then we could spend the afternoon singing, playing games, discussing the purpose of the holiday, etc.?
Whew! Glad I’m not the only one who feel this way.
I have gone so far as to ask my family members not to give me presents for Christmas or my birthday. I’m a relentless purger of junk. I hate receiving junk and I detest giving it as well.
This year my young nephews received kudos from me for asking for experiences (move tickets, amusement park, etc.) instead of toys. It’s not that I never buy them toys, but we all know what happens to most kids’ junk.
One of the nicest ideas for Christmas gift-giving is to donate to a charity in honor of the recipient. We’ve received such gifts from our friends and we’ve given them.
I agree, Tamela. I love the spirit of giving, especially when the heart is behind the gift rather than the feeling of obligation. I’ve reached the age that all I need is love, too. I’d be just as happy sitting and watching the kiddos open their gifts and feeling the excitement in the air. Now our family uses the wish list system. We pick an item from each individual’s list and everyone gets a gift they wanted.
What did Mary think
of what the gifts foretold?
Did she stop and blink
at the kingly gift of gold?
At myrrh did she not shudder;
at myrrh did she not cry?
She was the lamb-child’s mother,
and He, offering born to die.
In frankincense was all summed up,
the glory and the pain?
His taking of the fatal cup
in the garden, forever to reign?
We can’t know she thought of her holy task,
but in Heaven, when I see her, I’m sure gonna ask
If you get there first, Andrew, can you text me her reply, please? (grin)
The heart of a mother has to be strong as iron when it’s as fragile as wet tissue. I love your sensibilities.
Will do, Judith. The way the past few days have gone, it looks like sooner rather than later.
If you could keep me in your prayers, I would be grateful.
Andrew, you are forever in my prayers, both petition and praise. I thank God that I have been allowed to know you through this blog. You are now, and forever will be, my precious younger brother. I look forward to meeting you in person in the presence of Jesus. Grace, peace and love always.
Mary Kay Moody
As always, touched by your poetry, Andrew. Praying as always, too.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D
Tamela, thank you for the blessing of your blogs each year. I appreciate all you and the others at the Steve Laube Agency do to help us all become better at our writing.
Wendy L. Macdonald
Thank you, dear Tamela, for this comforting reminder. Love. Is. The. Greatest. Gift.
Blessings, amen, and Merry Christmas ~ Wendy Mac
True. Presence is always favored over presents.
Tamela Hancock Murray
I love all these responses. All of you are such a blessing to me!
As you are a blessing to us, Tamela.
I gave the very best I have to give; I do ask your prayers, if you have a moment. Cancer is winning.
Ake ake kia kaha – Forever, and be strong.
“With love, every day can be the Christmas season.” And to that I say, “Amen!”
Thank you for this post…in so many ways I really needed it. I’ve recently discovered God is pruning many things I used to do for others at Christmas. I’m trying to focus on Him and loving others the way He leads. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m so thankful He’s patient with me! So perhaps next year there will be more than one Christmas story I can share and a lot less cookies. 🙂
And if you’d like to read this year’s short Christmas story: https://trainingforeternityblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/ill-be-home-for-christmas/ I hope it blesses you in some small way.
Merry Christmas, Tamela!!
Tamela Hancock Murray
Thank you so much for your gift of a wonderful story, Joey.
Oh my, you’re so very welcome. I pray it brings a little comfort.
I’ve been thinking of you and all of those who’ve lost someone close to them this year; there seems to be so many. Praying God continues to brings all of you His wonderful peace, comfort, and hope throughout this Christmas season.
Tamela, your post could not have come at a better time for me. For many years I dreaded Christmas with all its crass hustle and bustle.
This year, I was feeling bad because I will not be doing anything like as much as a normal Christmas. There are three of us in the house here, one with broken patella, one with splintered ankle, and me with wrenched back.
Just handling the dailies is exhausting, not to mention the medical appointments and such.
Our celebration this year will be midnight mass followed by summer sausage, crackers, cheese and eggnog.
You have justified my not shopping til dropping. Thank you. I may spend a little time writing love letters instead.
Love this post.
I do like to give a few gifts. Mostly handmade candles and an ‘antiqued’ scroll of various scriptures. Since I’ve done this several years, we decided to get one purchased fun gifts for a few folks. And, yes, what they would think weird, unique, funny, ironic. My kids were beer connoisseurs, so I bought them shot glasses (because the beer ones were too expensive). Literal shot glasses that were made bullet-proof with a bullet stopped in the glass. Very funny. The I found out after the gift wrapped they decided to just quit drinking because of calorie intake, lol. Like, days before I bought the gift and had no idea. But did get color blind eye glasses for my brother in law. No one ever told me he was colorblind!
I love the Boxing Day in the UK celebrated so differently, the day after Christmas to commemorate St. Stephen’s sacrifice (though I doubt they think about it much any longer). Love the story of King Wenceslas doing a very sacrificial thing to help a very poor man by leaving his castle to hunt for food for him. There is the sacrificial gift that we can give, not out of convenience or comfort, but leaving the above to reach out.
I don’t need the proof either. Nor do I need to prove my love. It is however fun to see the expressions on faces in the room. Visiting and singing carols at nursing homes is becoming frowned upon. Sigh.
The midnight service on Christmas Eve is my favorite, and the first time at the end, everyone in the standing room only church began ringing bells! That was a beautiful thought and at the time I had no idea it was just another myth. Still, lovely.
Piles of stuff of mine,
it is time to say goodbye.
With mixed feelings I
give you away.
I do not completely hate you,
for you meant something to me once,
you are the enemy.
You surround me,
cluttering my room,
delaying my departure,
choking my life.
You must go. Begone, stuff!
Stuff of mine,
I am not sending you into the void.
I give you to the missionary stuff exchange,
and it is a comfort to know
that others will get to enjoy you.
Someone is getting some use out of you
I see them walking around the campus
wearing you, my shirt;
carrying you, my bag,
and I smile.
Stuff of mine,
I will sometimes think of you.
You will bring me even more pleasure
now that you are gone.
Thanks, Andrew. I wrote this some years ago, during a move.
Hang in there. I am thinking of you.
Many thanks, Jennifer. Things have gotten very bad, and the issue is in doubt.
Tamela, Your post was such a blessing, and the comments were too. We pulled back this year and decided that instead of exchanging names with our large family, we would get some practical items and do a game with them. Nothing expensive, just gift cards, a few board games, etc.
One year we decided to not give one another gifts at all, but instead used the money to rent a chalet in the mountains and spend together time. For three days and nights we had uninterrupted family fun. We loved it! I did write about it (The Christmas We Never Forgot” in my blog recently at http://www.armchairwit.com.
Thanks for your thoughtful posts all year long.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Thank you! Such a lovely blog!
Thank you, Tamela.
Mary Kay Moody
Joining with many others in thanking you, Tamela. We’d cut back on gift-giving within the family, but sometimes I felt like a Scrooge not being in the bustle of shopping and wrapping! But like many in this culture ~ we don’t need more stuff! Also like many others, I’m praying for you and your family. Firsts of many sorts after losing a parent have a sadness hovering. May you feel God as close to you as your breath.
Sending you lots of love, Tamela!
Merry Christmas Dear
Hello Thanks for sharing your opinion. How we can decorate our tree in unique style?
The folly of overindulging in gift-giving continues to roost with me as I help my sister sort her belongings. I do like to give a few gifts. mostly handmade candles and an ‘antiqued’ scroll of various scriptures. one of the nicest ideas for Christmas gift-giving is to donate to a charity in honor of the recipient is also very good.
Merry Christmas and happy New year
I applaud all of you and everyone else at the Steve Lobby Agency for helping to improve our writing. I am praying for you and your family. After losing a parent, there is a lot of confusion. I’m trying to focus on it and love the way I’m taking others. I have a long way to go, but I am so grateful that he is patient with me.