Every holiday has its pinnacle or climax. For Easter, it’s usually the egg hunt. For Independence Day, it’s usually a grand finale of fireworks. For Halloween, it’s trick or treating. For Thanksgiving, it’s a turkey dinner. And for Christmas, it’s usually the giving of presents.
But notice something interesting here. For those holidays that are not explicitly Christian, the climax makes perfect sense. But for those that are explicitly Christian, the climax bears little, if any, relevance to the reason for the holiday. For instance, shooting off fireworks to celebrate independence from English rule after hard fought battles where fireworks were used is understandable. A night of trick or treating lines up very well for a Celtic pagan holiday rooted in a time in which one dressed up as demons in order to trick real demons and keep them from molesting your evening. The meaning behind expressing gratitude on Thanksgiving for the bounty at your table is self-evident. But what do eggs and a bunny have to do with the death burial and resurrection of Jesus? And how does giving presents to each other remind us of how the wise men gave presents to the birth of God among men?
Of course there’s nothing wrong with bunnies and egg hunts. Christian freedom allows for them, plus they no longer bear their pagan significance. Presents at Christmas are perfectly acceptable, and when done appropriately prompt us to think of the needs and desires of others over our own.
But what would happen to our Christmas holiday if instead of focusing climactically on the giving of material presents, we gave, sought for, or expected the presence of Jesus? What would happen to our lives? Our world?
Think about it. The presence of God brings not only joy, but the fullness of joy, and pleasure as well (Psalm 16:11). It has also been known to bring rest (Exodus 33:14), as well as refreshing (Acts 3:19-20). It is in his presence that you will see the best of humanity (Psalm 140:13). And it is there that he offers protection (Psalm 31:20).
So give and receive your Christmas presents, but enjoy them in his presence!