As a follower of Jesus, I celebrate the birthday of Jesus on December 25 just like most of the other billions of Christians. Of course we don't really know the date Jesus was born, but December 25 is as good a day as any.
The Bible tells us that wise men travelled from a long distance to bring gifts to the new born baby who would become the Savior of the World. Because of that, it has become a tradition to give gifts to each other as part of the celebration.
Giving and receiving gifts is one of the languages of love and is a nice way to show people that we care about them and want to make an emotional connection with them. Thinking about a person and taking the time to select something that we think they would enjoy is a very real part of any relationship.
It does seem that we have taken this custom to the extreme as more and more people seem to forget about honoring Jesus and put their energy into spending money they don't have for reasons that are less than obvious.
I like to go to white elephant gift parties. The original idea of the white elephant was to give your enemies a gift that they had to spend money to house and maintain without any real benefit. A white elephant is a useless gift that puts a hardship on the receiver. The modern version is usually taken as a joke, and is a lot of fun.
Several years ago my wife and got rid of 75% of our possessions, moved from a four bedroom house to a two bedroom apartment and pledged to live more simply and tread lighter on the earth. From that point of view, most gifts are white elephants, because it turns out that it is a lot harder to sell something or give it away than it is to buy it in the first place.
Maybe it is time we changed our Christmas emphasis from buying stuff to remembering some of the things Jesus taught us. He taught a lot of things, but his central message was love and forgiveness. He said that anybody can love their friends; the real test is loving your enemies and forgiving those that hate you.
I like the idea that Christmas is close to the new year. What better way to start the year fresh than to follow Jesus' teaching and forgive those who have wronged us and make reconciliation with anybody we have had tense relationships with?
This year let us: Spend Less, Love More, Forgive Everyone, Serve Others.
Let me know how it works out.