We decided that we wouldn’t give each other gifts this year. There were good reasons. For one, we already have a lot. In fact, most everything we could want, within reason, we have. Then, also, we have just moved to a new place, in a sense giving ourselves a new home. Finally and more importantly, in view of most people in the world, we already had received enough in the way of gifts to last a lifetime or more.
Last year our immediate family, that is our daughters and husbands, agreed with us to enjoy an alternate form of gift-giving. We began to give toward those less fortunate than we are here in the U.S. and around the world. This giving “felt” good and seemed right a year ago, which was not the point exactly, but probably still blessed some others in small ways.
So this year again, that’s been our plan. We put the tree up and began a new chapter of being “home for Christmas.”
I didn’t notice it much last year, but this year I have. Around our tree it’s pretty much empty. Only a few gifts are there, for our grandchildren, who have yet to reach an age of responsibility when non-gift-giving could make sense. For the most part, however, every time I have looked at the tree it was barren. Relative to all our family traditions, there was pretty much nothing there.
Except for Jesus. In ways more obvious and vivid than before, it has dawned on me that, come Christmas morning, Jesus would be our main if not only gift. And, I wondered, whether Jesus was enough?
Of course, I know the right answer. Jesus is the gift and is enough. But knowing the right isn’t the same as being right and delighting in the right. Through our decision to have a Christmas where all we got from each other was Jesus, I realized how attached I was to mounds of gifts, brightly wrapped, piled up underneath the tree and extending out into the room in all directions. I discerned that my delight in the gift of Jesus has always been “enhanced” and “bolstered” by delight in the giving and receiving of other gifts. And I wondered to what extent we’d gotten it backwards—instead of our gifts signaling the most important gift of Jesus, it was the gift of Jesus famously embellished in our celebrations of his birthday that signaled the importance to us of all those other gifts.
But on this Christmas, by design, all we got was Jesus, for the most part. Could Jesus be gift enough? Surely, for Mary and Joseph Jesus was enough. Likewise, the shepherds gladly heard the news of his birth and then entered into the joy of seeing the little baby swaddled in the manger. And, the people of God whose hopes had longed for this very day could only be satisfied when, in fact, this day had come, only when Jesus became the gift.
Like our daughter and son in law, whose longing for a birth-day culminated last August in the gift of a child, Eden Arabelle Flowers. Ask them. Her coming was gift enough. Her arrival made their lives full in a way they didn’t know was possible. And, then, ask some for whom this Christmas will not pass without a reminder of a child conceived but never born, another of our daughters among them. Certainly the birth of that child, if only possible, would have been gift enough.
If all we got—ever—was Jesus, wouldn’t he be gift enough? That’s what we believe on this Holy Night and that’s how our faith leads us to live. In him is LIFE. In our kind of world how could LIFE, especially as lived and offered by Jesus, not be enough? In him is LOVE—both the greatest expression and extension of love toward us and the most transforming power we could ever experience and share with others. In our kind of world how could Jesus’ love not be enough? In him are beauty, goodness and truth. In our kind of world, mired in the ugly, subverted by evil and confused by the false, how could Jesus not be enough?
Yes, whether there has been little or much “under the tree” before, if Jesus was all we got, he would be enough.