For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Christmas is my favorite. I freely admit I'm a sucker for every Christmas movie and TV episode ever. I own a stack of them none of my friends can rival and I eagerly dive in each year. So many of them explain in touching or silly or sad moments some facet of the meaning of Christmas. Spoiler alert - there are many. One of my favorites is in Home Alone. The film is primarily a story of a child outwitting burglars and surviving being left home alone. But anyone who has seen it knows that it remains so popular because the main character, a bratty child, learns to appreciate his family, and they, him.
In one particular scene, toward the climax, the kid has realized how much he needs and misses his family. He heads to see Santa on Christmas Eve, catching him with his beard down, trying to get into his car. He says he's old enough to know how this works and even though he isn't the real Santa, he knows he works for him. He says that instead of toys, please tell Santa he just wants his family back. This is remarkable as a breakthrough, but also because it's already been revealed that he knows he doesn't deserve presents at all this year, that he's been "a pain." But he's still expecting Santa will come and bring gifts.
I think that reveals the remarkable child-like faith we are all to emulate. This is important! The original historical St. Nicholas brought gifts to poor children and helped poor families. His gifts were not a reward for a year of good behavior, but a reminder of the gift of grace Christ was to our world, and each of us. We do a disservice to St. Nick and to Christ, as well as our kids, when we emphasize the naughty and nice list or the behavior-monitoring duties of elves on shelves. Gifts are not earned. Gifts are given for love, for relationship. And every kid knows what we can only learn from them... gifts come because we need them, because we expect them, because we are loved.
This Christmas, celebrate the magic and myths of Santa and elves and flying reindeer, but be sure the emphasis is on the mystery of love and God breaking into our lives because God loves us. And maybe find a way to do like St. Nicholas. Go find those in need, share what you have. Remind the world of the first Christmas gift... one we needed, not one we deserved.