Six Things I Love About Christmas

December 11, 2011

by Maria Fontaine

Most people have a few things that they love about Christmas, that make the Christmas season special to them. Here are a few of my top picks!

  1. I love the spirit of giving that permeates Christmas. It’s often a time when even the least generous become more giving. Somehow it just feels right. It’s a time when children can learn the joy of giving as they brighten the lives of others or share what they have. It’s a time when everyone can give something, whether they have a little or a lot, and find some reward in it.

    Giving was always a part of Christmas for me, from the time I was small. I’ll never forget our church’s Christmas giving tradition. A few months before Christmas, the members of our congregation would buy a Jell-O or instant pudding box for each of the members of their family. We’d take the Jell-O or pudding packets out of the boxes (we kids looked forward to this part—getting to prepare and eat the yummy dessert!), and then we’d wrap the boxes in Christmas wrapping paper and cut a slit in them to make them into a mini piggy bank. In the months leading up to Christmas, everyone would try to save what they could in order to add to their little Christmas piggy bank box for Jesus’ birthday. The adults would save from their weekly paychecks and we kids would set aside a little bit of our small weekly allowance.

    Then when we had our Christmas service on Christmas Eve, each person, one by one, would take their little box wrapped in Christmas paper filled with whatever money they had saved in the three to four months leading up to Christmas and place it under the tree as their gift to Jesus. The money would then go to the missionaries that we were supporting.

    This tradition was very meaningful for me as a child. We did it every year, for quite a number of years. It was an ongoing giving event that spanned three or four months leading up to Christmas, so it got us thinking more about Jesus during that time, and helped us to remember to put Jesus first at Christmas. It taught us to give what we could, because that’s the spirit of Christmas.

    We would also try to give little gifts to members of our family (and as children, with just a few nickels and dimes, that was often a challenge), but much more important to us were our gifts to Jesus that we placed in those little boxes under the Christmas tree every year. To this day, whenever I look at a Christmas tree, I’m always reminded of these beautiful experiences that made such an impression on me as a child.

  2. I love the fact that Christmas is a time when talking about Jesus is more readily accepted and appreciated in most parts of the world. There is the ever-present commercial aspect of Christmas, but even amidst that, dedicated Christians can help people to know the true meaning of Christmas. This is probably the thing I like the most about Christmas: Because most of the world celebrates Christmas in some way or another, it’s a perfect opportunity for witnessing Christians to reach others, to give them the message of Jesus and His gift of salvation. It’s much easier than bringing it up out of the blue at a random event in everyday life. Christmastime is the easiest time to bring up the topic of Jesus, even if you don’t have any prior relationship with the person you’re talking to. Christmastime and Jesus go hand in hand.

  3. I love the opportunities that Christmas provides for creative and meaningful gift giving. When I was a child, my parents sacrificed to give us presents for Christmas, but they normally got us the things that we needed—such as clothes or shoes. My parents would usually also try to get us something that was a frill or an extra, something special, like a dollhouse for me. I remember receiving three dollhouses for Christmas over the years of my childhood, and I loved them, as most little girls do.

    I think my upbringing in this respect gave me a pretty practical and pragmatic view of gift giving. When I give a gift, I try to give the person something that is meaningful, something that they need and will use, because I guess that’s the way I was brought up. It sometimes takes more thought and creativity to come up with something meaningful, but such gifts carry a little bit of you with them to the recipient, and are often well remembered. As has been aptly said, “The finest Christmas gift is not the one that costs the most money, but the one that carries the most love.”[1]

  4. I’ve always loved meaningful gatherings with friends and fellow Christians at Christmastime. When I was growing up, we always had a church program, as most churches do. All of us children would get to participate, either in the Christmas play, or singing some of the Christmas songs or reciting poems like:

    What can I give Him, as small as I am?

    If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb.

    If I were a wise man, I’d do my part.

    I know what I’ll give Him, I’ll give Him my heart.

    We’d have a Nativity scene with real people and sometimes an animal or two if we could pull it off. I remember being Mary one year and trying to keep the real baby quiet in the manger. These were such good old-fashioned gatherings around the true meaning of Christmas.

    I remember that I had the mumps at Christmastime one year and I had to miss the Christmas program. Although I got to eat lots of ice cream, and my dad came and comforted me, those treats were nothing compared to missing the Christmas fellowship. The Christmas program was one of the highlights of my year, a long-anticipated event, and the time we’d present our gifts to Jesus. So to me it was almost like the end of the world to be missing it! I was a fan of uniting at Christmastime even then.

    During the years I was married to David, we usually had a very meaningful Christmas talk, sometimes over dinner. These gatherings were always special and meaningful, and David tried to make them especially memorable for the children, by recounting to them the story of Christmas and telling them his childhood stories and Christmas memories.

    In the years since David’s passing, we’ve had Christmas gatherings with those that we live or work with, and these have been special too. It’s just a precious gift to gather together with those that you love at Christmas, to do something special and out of the ordinary, to share spiritual fellowship of some kind, and just to be there together in one place celebrating the One who is so worthy of celebration. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be centered around Jesus, His love, and brotherhood and friendship in Him.

  5. Another thing that I love, and that I know Peter loves too, is Christmas music. So many of the Christmas carols are very meaningful. I like the old religious carols because they express deep truths about Jesus’ birth and death and resurrection. I like the newer ones too. Any song that brings attention to the “Greatest Gift” is wonderful.

    I played some Christmas carols for a friend of ours who doesn’t speak English well, and I asked her if she knows most of these in her language, and she said yes. That reminded me that many of them have been translated into other languages and are being listened to and sung all around the world.

    Sometimes it’s easy to become familiar with the Christmas carols that we hear a lot, but if you stop to listen to the words and meditate on their meaning, it’s amazing how powerful and full of truth some of them are, like “O Holy Night” (Peter’s favorite) and “What Child Is This?” and others.

    Nails, spear shall pierce him through,

    The cross be borne for me, for you;

    Hail, hail the Word made flesh,

    The Babe, the Son of Mary!

    So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;

    Come, peasant, king, to own Him
    The King of kings salvation brings;

    Let loving hearts enthrone Him!

    One year David and I went to a Christmas Eve candlelight service late at night in Israel, a Catholic Arab Mass. It was beautiful to worship with the Christians there, to hear the same beloved songs being sung in Arabic, even though we couldn’t understand a word. When we were in Israel we would sometimes eat in the little cheap restaurants run by the Palestinians, and they invited us to their Christmas service. I remember it being extremely cold, but singing the beautiful carols with those Christians really warmed my spirit.

  6. I love Christmas lights. A lot of people like Christmas lights, but I really like them! I could have them hanging around in my room and on my indoor plants all year round—and sometimes I do. In the past when I’ve traveled to different parts of the world, I’ve even brought a string or two of Christmas lights with me in my suitcase. I just love the glow they give. Sometimes when we’re away from home, stringing up a set or two of lights can make me feel more relaxed, adding that glow, bringing a bit of calm and cheer to the atmosphere. They’re also very gentle on my eyes, which are often sensitive, when some other types of lights are very harsh.

    I pretty much like all Christmas lights. I like the white ones, the gold ones, the blue ones, the colored ones, and the lights in my little fiber optic Christmas tree. I like it when hotels or restaurants put them in the bushes and trees for decorations. I like icicle lights. I think they look heavenly. Somehow they remind me of heaven, of the spirit world, of the beautiful things in life.

    Christmas lights also remind me of Jesus, the light of the world. If I were going to build a manger scene, I would put beautiful Christmas lights all around Jesus in the manger. There are usually lots of little Christmas lights, often hundreds on a tree, which remind me of the many blessings Jesus gives us all throughout the year.

    Speaking of lights, I’m praying for each one of you, that your Christmas will be filled with light and love, as we each do our part to light others' lives with the love of Jesus. The world knows so much darkness and can use all the light it can get! And let’s look forward to and praise Him in advance for the many lights of blessing and care that He is sure to brighten our lives with—and the lives of those we love—in the coming year.

    Now light one thousand Christmas lights,

    On dark earth here tonight;

    One thousand, thousand also shine,

    To make the dark sky bright.

    He came to bring us love and light,

    To bring us peace on earth.

    So let your candles shine tonight,

    And sing with joy and mirth.

[1] Henry Van Dyke.

[2] Christina G. Rossetti, adapted.

[3] William Chatterton Dix.

[4] Swedish traditional carol, author unknown.