The Ghost of Christmas Past

The giving of gifts is not something man invented. God started the giving spree when he gave a gift beyond words, the unspeakable gift of His Son. ~ Robert Flatt

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas traditions. I grew up in a home filled with faith and fun. Christmas Eve was spent around the fireplace, reading Luke and lighting candles and singing Joy to the World and Silent Night. It was sweet and sacred.

Christmas morning meant stockings full of candy and nuts and the oddest trinkets my Mom could find in those funny little catalogs. After breakfast, we opened our gifts. Most were homemade: wooden games, odd lamps and candle holders made by Dad; new clothes sewn by Mom. There were also a few store items, that special game or toy particularly hoped for that year.

I carried my childhood traditions into my own family, enlarging them. The stockings got bigger and bigger and more expensive to fill. The gifts under the tree took hours to unwrap.

I thought I was setting an example of giving, but I was really setting an example of getting. In spite of me, my daughter and son have grown up to be kind, generous and thoughtful adults.

I’ve changed. I’ve learned a great deal about generosity and hope these past few years. If this were a Dickens memory, the Ghost of Christmas Past would be one of regret. But it isn’t. I have wonderful memories and I have things I would do differently. If I were raising my children now, I would have stockings that were silly and fun and a gift or two that I knew they would enjoy.

The rest of their present would be to give them the money I would have spent on their gifts, for them to use to give to others. Maybe they would have had the joy of anonymously paying off someone’s utility bill or Christmas layaway toys or dropping bills instead of coins, into the red bucket, sharing in God’s joyful spending spree!

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

23 thoughts on “The Ghost of Christmas Past”

  1. Debbie, I can relate. We were rather poor growing up, and most of our gifts were things that did not cost a lot of money –we always got oranges, nuts, M&Ms in our stockings and my mom made cloths for my dolls each year until I grew out of playing with them. She even made me a cloth doll with yarn hair and a Raggedy Ann that is about 3 feet tall. (I say “is” because I still have her) 🙂

    When my son was growing up, we had the money to spend and we spent – a lot – each year. It would take us the whole morning to open gifts. They were mostly clothes and electronics for my son, and sporting equiptment (mostly downhill skis and equiptment as we all skiied). I normally got loads of books and clothes. It was such a warm, wonderful way to spend Christmas morning.

    Now, we can’t afford to buy for everyone, and I find myself missing the giving and getting. My heart always rejoiced through the day over the birth of my Lord, but I wonder if all the giving and getting pulled our attention away too much from Him. Now, with that lack comes a definite refocusing on the TRUE meaning of the day. 🙂

    Merry Christmas, dear friend.

    1. Dear Drusilla – Our stories sound so similar. I, too, find myself missing the giving – but I think my lack of financial resources have forced my attention to what I’m paying attention to – know what I mean?
      Merry Christmas to you, too, my new friend.
      ~ Debbie

  2. I always think about the rest of the year. Folks are hungry then, too. People always have needs and when we help out, Scripture says we LEND to God.
    I was once in one of those great little “junktique” stores and someone who had suffered a house fire was there just trying to find decent clothing for her children. Another shopper paid for her purchases with 20 dollars extra, and asked the clerk to give it to that poor woman. It was summer, so she didn’t really have to do that, right? We all were in tears.

    1. Katharine – What a beautiful example. Wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate the 12 months of Christmas this new year and do something special like that each month? You’ve encouraged me to try it! 😀
      ~ Debbie

      1. Now, that is a good idea. Hmm.

        On the first month of Christmas, a stranger gave to me:
        a new pear tree to plant in my back yard? Hee hee.

        Okay, seriously, I do like this idea lots. What do you envision?

      2. Katharine – Love your poem. 😀
        I’m still kicking it around. I think I’ll write a post to ask for ideas. What if we bloggers ask those who read our blogs if some would like to take on a 1 year challenge – we could be GGA (gift givers anonymous or maybe something more clever). Then, we could set up a way to share our monthly giving adventures. It gets tricky there since we’d want to share our stories without ‘the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing’… Ideas?

  3. Christmas has become all about Getting. Even giving is measured by how much you spent (i.e., did you spend enough on someone without making them upset.) Out of control.

    I long for a traditional Christmas you speak of from your past. Candy and nuts, singing and maybe a good toy. Sounds relaxing and joyful.

    Christmas “shouldn’t” be a time of stress. It “should” be about joy. But, instead, i will wrap 100 presents, and participate in our new assignment: A grab bag. It’s OK … it seems fun, and we’re only spending $10!

    Happy Christmas! WOOHOO!

  4. I wonder if there are different kinds of giving. I think within family and among friends, we need reciprocity. It is human nature to want “to get.” That is, not in terms of greed, but in terms of needing to be valued and respected by those whom we love. So, parents spoil their children a little. And, we exchange gifts with friends and co-wokers.

    Then, there are always the unexpected or unplanned gifts that we receive or give: a plate of cookies from a neighbor, a handknitted scarf to someone in the nursing home. These gifts are relatively small, but require a labor of love. Personally, I appreciate this kind of getting and giving the most.

    Regarding the individual who gave the $1800: that is a different kind of giving. It was anonymous, wanting nothing in return, and seeking only to do good. I think that is what the real Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) did many years ago. Let us hope that those who benefitted from the $1800 will thank God for it.

    1. Good points, Aunt Melanie – there are many different ways to give – and quite a few different ways to receive. Gratitude and Grace in giving and receiving stir the heart.
      ~ Debbie

  5. As always, you direct our thoughts to the true gift, the gift for all. And it’s free. Just this week someone came into one of our stores and gave the clerk $1800 and told her to use it to pay for the purchases of those in the store at the time. No receipt. No acknowledgment. That’s the spirit of this season. Lovely, dear friend.

  6. Beautiful Debbie. I love that, “God’s joyful shopping spree. I . . .am where you were at , to an extent, and don’t know how to get out of it. Praying that I will know, that God will show me or tell me . . .or make it impossible for me to buy for others, if what I’m doing displeases Him. Love and God bless you and how your heart desires Him.

    1. Dearest Deb – God bless your sweet, vulnerable heart. Please don’t read any condemnation in my confession. I’m speaking only about me. Even as I write this I wonder if there still might be a sense of good vs better in my response and I don’t mean there to be.God, in His great grace, gives us the freedom to give to the world in a world of different ways! Merry, merry Christmas, my friend.
      ~ Debbie

      1. Oh no! Don’t feel bad or question what you wrote in anyway. It’s just me and you didn’t indicate any condemnation! Sorry if I made you feel that way! argh. 🙂 Love you and your heart, sweet Debbie!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s