Christmas From Berlin

Christmas is about getting as much as it is about giving. Apparently though, this is a thing we are all having a hard time doing: Getting. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Oh, why did you get this for me? I haven’t gotten anything for you!” In fact, I just found myself doing it the other day when I was given a Christmas card. I said, “But I don’t have a card for you!” But don’t you think that after we give a gift to someone for Christmas, birthday…etc. we should not be expecting anything in return? Wouldn’t it then be called something like a “trade” or a “business transaction” and not a “gift”.


Berlin is a cynical city. I find Christmas here often being mocked. Well, perhaps it’s the cheesy superficial side of Christmas that people are fed up with. Understandable. Yet, in general the spirit of this city is sometimes about just keeping cool and keeping to yourself. If someone is too visibly happy, sometimes they are placed directly into the loonie-bin. No wonder people go crazy! They are deemed no longer people to be taken seriously. Probably one day they were healthy, happy, smiling people but everyone kept telling them to simmer down, quiet down. They kept getting told to put away the smile because they are starting to look like a crazy person.
This goes along with an example of someone close to me here. They have an agreement with their brother that every Christmas they will not get each other a gift so that they would not need to feel obligated to each other. I understand this agreement, of course but what if my friend just wants to give his brother something out of his heart as a true gift? He is not free to do so because of this agreement they have between each other. These kinds of things take the free, lighthearted joy out of giving.

The Joy of Giving

As a preteen/teenager, one of the things I absolutely loved doing was finding that perfect gift for my family member. It was my parents, my sisters and me. I would whirl with excitement when I was brought to the store and imagined my gift in the hands of the receiver. With great joy I wrapped the gift perfectly with paper and ribbons and bows. The feeling did not come from expecting anything in return. It came from the expectation of the expression I would see on their faces when they thought, “wow, this is the perfect gift for me”
As my family grew the gift-giving got trickier. One nephew, no two – I mean, three, NO, four nephews! I started to lose the love for gift-giving and started to look at it as more of a…DUTY! Plus, let’s be honest, when you give a gift to a little baby or toddler there isn’t much of an expression in return. Anyways, here I am years later and wondering: what happened to the wonder and joy I used to have when I would give gifts? Most likely those duty gifts will probably just end up in someones’ attic or at the bottom of their closet in a plastic bag.


Of course, not everyone has the gift for gift-giving but that brings me to what I really want to talk about: Receiving.  If we haven’t had our cup filled with water how do we expect to pour anything into someone else’s cup? God desires to fill us with all the good things he has for us: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness. If you have no idea what I’m talking about maybe you could consider starting a new spiritual adventure in your life. The adventure of receiving what Jesus did for us. Our church has a gospel tract we give out. To be honest, it’s really not the best quality tract.  It’s over ten years old, usually printed on cheap paper from our office. If it gets rained on the lettering immediately starts to bleed. But the message is clear and simple – accept the free gift of salvation! Receiving God’s gift of salvation takes the HUGE burden to be the giver, provider, savior of your own life and your family off of your shoulders and puts it where it belongs – God’s shoulders.
Why is it that we have such a difficult time receiving?! We can all agree Christmas has become a crazy, materialistic mess but can we agree on what it Christmas should be? Just sit back, think about the good thing God has provided for us in the giving of His Only Son and receive Him. This is what I determined to do this Christmas.  I want to receive from God first and then out of this abundance, give to others. If I don’t give a gift, it is OK. The key is to receive what God has given to me. If I happen to give a gift, it will be out of the joyful response of Grace and not out of a obligation to a twisted check list that will just place my gift into the dark clouded room of forgotten gifts.  If I GET a gift or two: That’s fine too! I’ll take it with gratitude!
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