Our neighborhood community is having a carols by candlelights tomorrow evening. They asked me to share some thoughts on Christmas. So here goes …

I find today’s Christmas culture totally insufficient when compared to the context of the original story. Christmas has drowned in the capitalistic consumption craze. In the next few weeks millions of people will dash to the shops in a frenzied search for the perfect gift. Rich people giving gifts to rich people, making them even more rich.

The spirit of the first Christmas is definitely in the opposite direction. Just consider that the first people who heard about the Savior entering our world were shepherd; the outcasts and riffraff were the VIP’s. King Herod wasn’t invited; neither was the Roman guards.

Also consider the setting of this amazing birth. With our second son only two weeks old I know how important it was (for us) to have a sterile environment for his arrival. For Jesus there was no Sandton-Clinic. His first steps into this world was amidst the droppings of animals.

Oh yes and talking about gifts … Three gifts really impress me when I think of the Christmas story.

The first gift concerns the young girl Mary. When an angel tells her that she’s about to be blessed; (read, receive a gift) I’m sure she wouldn’t in her wildest dreams have thought that she would be pregnant with the Messiah! The gift here is actually the fact that she complies with all of this, do you remember her words? “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Mary gave the gift of her body. A gift that would have placed her in the top of the gossip circles – after all she was engaged to Joseph and to many her wild story would have sounded like a clever made-up story to cover the fact that she and Joseph stepped over the rope. Mary gave her body and her reputation.

The second gift concerns Joseph. When he found out that Mary was pregnant he pondered leaving her. It was that or face the scorn of the locals. Everyone knew that it was taboo to have premarital sex (it was even punishable with stoning). Yet, and in this is the gift, Joseph gave up the easy way and gifts God with hardships; even when it cost him his reputation.

The last gift is the story of a missed gift. When Joseph and Mary trekked all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem (approximately 90 miles) his relatives didn’t have room for him. They couldn’t gift a pregnant couple with a space wherein they could welcome a new child. I always wonder how this family would view their ‘gift’ in retrospect.

So this Christmas we have an opportunity to gift God like Mary and Joseph, and hopefully we can learn from the anti-gift.