Archive for the ‘birthday’ Category

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What do I want for Christmas? What should I get my family? Which store carries what I’m looking for?

This is the time of year when many of us ask those and many other similar questions. From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve each year, people spend so much time and energy looking for that perfect gift, fighting crowds and traffic to find “the one present they’ll never forget.” But I bet if you ask enough people, they’ve forgotten more gifts than they can remember, especially if they’ve lived long enough. Sure, a gift here or there might stand out in memory, but think back five or ten years. Do you even remember who gave you what or what you gave to other people for Christmas?

Every December, people get so caught up in the madness of the season, but how many people ever stop to ask themselves WHY? Why do we give gifts? What is the purpose of this annual tradition that puts so many people into debt and causes so much stress? We spend so much time hunting, buying, wrapping, giving, opening, and then quickly forgetting the presents, and in that there’s a hollow emptiness. You can go through the same ritual year after year, but you’ll always find yourself with things that eventually break, disappear, gather dust, or just leave you feeling empty when you finish. In the gift-giving process, it’s so easy to lose sight of what’s important, or rather whom.

When gifts are given, they should point us to something greater; they should remind us of the relationships we have, rather than being an end in themselves. It’s a far greater gift to have meaningful relationships you can’t buy than to receive the most expensive things someone else can. We can give gifts to people we love and care about, but then as recipients, we might get so caught up in the gift itself, we quit thinking about the person who gave us that gift and quickly become ungrateful. Just go online and you’ll see people making big stinks about the gifts they didn’t get. They’re even willing to take out their rage on the people who didn’t give them the gift they wanted or supposedly deserved, all to the amusement of others, instead of being grateful for the gifts they did get or recognizing that someone else loved them enough to want to get them something at all, perhaps at great expense, just for a trinket the recipient won’t remember in a few months. And that’s a great sadness.

But it’s not just the world who does this. How often do we who are Christians forget the ultimate Gift Giver, while seeking to enjoy the gifts we’ve received? We can get so focused on the gifts themselves, instead of remembering the relationship with the One who gave us those gifts. When we get some gift we didn’t ask for or want, or when we don’t get what we want, we throw a fit and get angry at God or other people in our lives. Or we get the gift we want, but then we lose focus on the One who gave us that gift, and we turn the gift into an idol that eventually leaves us feeling empty.

So this holiday season, as you spend time trying to find gifts for other people or trying to figure out what you want yourself, take some time out of the seasonal chaos to remember giving gifts should not be about the gifts themselves but about the relationships you have. Whatever you get someone else or someone else gets you, those gifts will likely be forgotten or go unused in a few years or months time. Instead, remember it’s about the people you have in your life; besides, sometimes the best gift you can give someone else is time.

You know that feeling of excitement kids get when Christmas approaches? The gifts, the music, and so on. And the thoughts of so many people, “What am I going to get so-and-so for Christmas?” I know the feeling.

When kids’ birthdays approach, they probably get excited about that as well and even wonder, “What am I going to get for my birthday?” But for some, it’s more a question of “will anyone remember my birthday?” Do you know that feeling?

It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” unless your birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas. People get so busy during this time, and what could be a special day for a kid might go by without acknowledgement. Or maybe it does get acknowledged with a combination birthday-Christmas gift, while everyone else around you also gets gifts independent of their birthdays. One might think you’d get twice as many gifts at one time, but how often does one clean up so well? Besides, it’s less special if everyone else is getting gifts too. And each year is about the same; your birthday can become a day that doesn’t stand out and nobody else remembers, even one’s own mother. (That happened to me, but it’s now just a memory of yesteryear.)

But you know what? You get older. You survive. And you celebrate in your own way. You eventually might even realize you’re not alone.

Today is my birthday, and having it so near Christmas used to be not so great, but it’s really not too bad now, even as I look back. Depending on a birthday’s proximity to Christmas, work/school could be a non-issue. Other kids aren’t so lucky; after all, birthdays don’t get most people out of work/school for a day. Now that I’m older, I’d rather be working on my birthday than be unemployed (though being off would be nice occasionally).

You know what else? I got to come home from the hospital for the first time in a stocking. One I still have. Now that’s pretty special.

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I’m sure there are other reasons to enjoy today for what it is, my birthday being so close to Christmas. I may not even try to celebrate the way I used to as a kid anyway, but I still enjoy having my birthday, even if I don’t do much with it. Not to mention, there aren’t really any material possessions I want so badly, and I find it more fun to give gifts than receive them.

So if your birthday is close to Christmas, I know how you feel (unless your birthday is on Christmas, which I don’t). It stinks as a kid to be so overshadowed by such a monumental holiday, but it will be okay. Just hang in there.