It’s that time of year for the last minute Christmas scramble. Whether it’s those last few gifts to purchase, those sugar cookies to make, the presents that need wrapped, or the holiday cards that need mailed, the days before Christmas always seem to expend a lot of energy, stress, and money. I’m pretty certain that’s not what Christ intended.
As a parent, I have often found myself caught up in this mad rush. In years past, I have been a fairly rational human being until December 20th and then I have transformed into a crazed squirrel, scampering all over the place. I have heard it said before that a mother sets the tone for her home. If the tone is an anxious one, anxiety will ensue and anxiety will be what is remembered.
What I remember about Christmas is markedly different. It was time spent together. My mom and I made ornaments with Styrofoam balls, fabric scraps, and pushpins. We delivered cookies to our neighbors and lit Advent candles each Sunday.
My Dad was always good at needing presents wrapped, so he let me help him, as much as an eight year old could. I loved having the inside scoop on what gifts everyone else was getting. One of my favorite memories was piling into our old blue Omni to see a local light display and drinking hot chocolate together. Then there was always my brother and I staying up way too late laughing on Christmas Eve.
Make no mistake. Christmas is not about all of the wrappings that we associate with it. It is about God sending His only Son. It is about celebrating that Son who would one day save us from our sins and bring us life, in His name. However, He made an eternal investment in us that we might invest in others.
These investments with our children may take the form of a gingerbread house or sugar cookies. They might look like a visit to a live nativity or a performance of the Nutcracker. They may include selecting a gift together for another child from the Gifts of Compassion Catalog or sharing a cup of Christmas tea with a widow. They may even sound like really off tune Christmas carols at the top of your lungs in the car.
Investments of time cause us to slow down and reflect on what is most important. They are essentially counter-cultural, resisting the impulse to spend time, money, and stress on lesser things. There is a world of difference between spending and investing. Each year at Christmas, my parents purposely invested time. And year by year, I find myself doing the same.