December can be a real challenge. Many of your neighbors and friends may invite you to a holiday party, there may be an event at work, there will be family get-togethers, how to do all of that within 24 days? Plus, you may have to travel to be with children or parents so what to do about pets, weather, fly or drive, etc. No wonder this can be a very stressful time of the year. Thank you, Madison Avenue.

Remember, that all of this pressure is a product of advertising and our willingness to buy into it. Even the nonsense of taking Christ out of Christmas by saying “Happy Holidays” is created. We allowed that to happen when we responded to “Black Friday” on Thursday afternoon, not by recognizing the variety of faiths in our community and wishing them a holiday greeting that doesn’t isolate them.

In the story of the birth of Jesus, no one who comes to see the infant rush out to spend a lot of money on gifts for Mary, Joseph, and the baby. The Wise Men brought gifts, but it took them nearly 2 years to find them. Fortunately, the gifts wouldn’t spoil or be outgrown.

We can still share gifts, but we don’t have to go crazy trying to outdo last years gift that was given to you. My sister gave me a gift valued at $????, so I have to spend more. My children need more gadgets and gizmos that take them away from spending time with people. It is about spreading joy, not fortunes.

Try selecting gifts that are guided by your heart, not advertising. Share gifts that have a depth of meaning, not the depth of a bank account. Let your love for the recipient be the reason for the gift, not the desire to outdo someone.

Take back the meaning of Christmas from the advertisers, the marketers, the broadcast people, and the spinoff products of TVs and movies. Let hope, joy, and love be gathered higher than the pile of gifts under the tree this year. Make the prime event on your calendar this year be a Christmas Eve service. Invite friends and families and share the best gift you can ever give, you!

Shalom, Darrell