We come to a paradoxical time of year. It is the time of year in which we celebrate the birth of the child born to poor parents with no roof over their head in which to bring their child into the world but a borrowed barn, and we celebrate this child born into poverty by spending inordinate amounts of money on things no one needs. Okay, occasionally a present someone needs slips in by some unsuspecting husband, but he will soon be set straight.
We rationalize this extravagant gift giving by saying that the child born in poverty was brought gold, frankincense and myrrh by the wealthy elite of a foreign land. Or, we rationalize that we buy extravagant gifts to represent the richness we find in our salvation, the extravagant gift God gave in Jesus, etc. The fact of the matter is, we buy extravagant gifts for a multitude of reasons and very few relate to our Christianity, if any do at all.
This time of year, even the non-believers in Christ get in on extravagant gift giving and become stressed over getting this person or that person just the perfect gift, or if not a perfect gift, one that will make them look good. This also applies for believers as well, as I do not have any intention of being discriminatory of my criticisms of the commercialization of a holiday originally begun to celebrate the birth of a poor child.
I would like to say at this point that I do not, in any way, mean to imply that I am so righteous that I do not fall into the exact same pattern that many other people conform to as we pass from Thanksgiving to New Year. I do. But I also recognize that I do this and as such do not attempt to rationalize why. I purchase extravagant gifts this time of year because it is the one time of year I can spoil my family with the solid excuse of "but everyone else is doing it."
In spite of, or maybe because of, our unity in our insistence on continuing this practice of extravagant giving, I would like to bring to mind the reason why we come to this time of year - to celebrate the birth of a child born in poverty. A child who grew up, not as royalty and not with privilege, but a child who grew in a modest, but loving and devout home. We celebrate the holiday of a child who grew up to wander from town to town bringing a message of hope in a time of oppression and persecution, a time in which wrongs needed to be righted and the world-norms needed to be turned up-side down, or rather right-side up - a time not unlike the times we find ourselves in right now.
For me, I plan to celebrate, commemorate, remember this child of poverty by adopting another child of poverty. No, I do not plan to adopt a child that will be living in my household, (no worries sweetie, no diapers), but one that lives in poverty daily. I am looking at possibly adopting a child, at least for Christmas, and possibly for the entire year. I have not yet decided exactly how I will go about this or what, if any, organizations I may support through this endeavor, but I feel led to do this to not only count my blessings, but to share those blessings with someone other than those in my immediate family.
In this way, I can remember the reason we celebrate our blessings with our family, the child born so long ago. By helping another child in poverty, I can respect the child who was born in poverty to bring us richness of spirit and abundance of life. I would challenge you to find some way meaningful for you that helps you remember the child of Bethlehem; some way to move outside of yourself and the extravagant spending for those who do not need. Celebrate the baby born in a manager this season.