As you guys probably all know by now, I’m a huge fan of AnnMarie Pavese’s So Sang the Dawn and I have her here today to talk about a Well-Crafted Christmas
This year for Christmas, my church has been doing a series called A Well-Crafted Christmas. We’ve decorated the church to look very artistic and modern, and for each week of the four-week series, we have a time-lapse video of a new artist showcasing their work. The first week, we showed a video of a woman paining a Christmas star on a ten-foot canvas, and the next week, was a man doing stained glass. Weak three was a graphic designer doing a digital version of the same star, and week four showcased an artist doing metalwork.
Along with the artwork we’ve been gradually displaying each week, our sermons have been centered around how to have a well-crafted Christmas, the idea being Christmas is what we make it. If we put effort into our holiday seasons, we’ll come away truly feeling the sense of excitement and joy that we expect to get out of it every year.
The four main themes for our sermons have been compassion, sacrifice, generosity and love. Generosity and love are two words that are thrown around a lot during Christmas, but what about compassion and sacrifice? How do they fit into the Christmas season?
Generosity is easy at Christmas. Giving to those less-fortunate than ourselves, making cookies for your neighbor, or dropping a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket.
Love, that’s an easy one too. I don’t know about you, but somehow it always feels way easier to love on the people around me during Christmas. Not that I don’t always love on people, but it feels so much more natural to go the extra mile around the holidays.
Compassion. That’s a new topic for Christmas, at least for me. We know what it means to love in general, but what does it mean to have compassion, and how do we put that into action?
My pastor explained it this way:
Apathy — I don’t care.
Pity — Too bad for you.
Sympathy — I’m sorry for you.
Empathy — I’m sorry for you. I feel what you feel.
Compassion — I’m sorry for you. I feel what you feel. I’m going to do something about it.
I thought that was a really neat way to lay it out. Sympathy is seeing someone who’s hurting or who has it rough, and feeling sorry for them, and empathy is even better. It’s feeling sorry for them, and feeling for them. But compassion is the deepest level of love and concern, because not only do we feel sorry for them, and feel for them, but we take it one step further and decide to do something about it. To reach out to them, and do whatever we can to make it better.
And then we have sacrifice. That’s definitely a new term for me concerning Christmas, and when you think about it, it actually encompasses all the other three themes. When I think of Christmas, I think of it as the time of abundance. Where everyone has more than enough, and where we splurge on food and clothes and gifts, because it’s a special occasion. So how do you sacrifice during Christmas? If you already have more than what you need, how do you give to the point of it being a sacrifice, without giving so much that you have nothing left?
My pastor’s explanation for this one was really moving for me:
Sacrifice — I sacrifice because I’m convinced that what I’m giving to is of greater value than what I would get if I kept it for myself.
Pretty awesome. Hearing that, it really made me stop and think. It’s not really about the amount we give, it’s about how much our giving is worth to the person we’re giving to.
It kind of reminds of me of The Gift Of The Magi by O. Henry. Where the husband and wife, extremely poor as they are, try to find a gift for one another. The wife sells her hair to buy a chain for her husband’s pocket watch, and in return, the husband sells his pocket watch to buy a set of combs for his wife. It wasn’t what they gave that mattered because in the end, neither of them were even able to use the gifts they received at all. What mattered was that they each gave the only thing they had, in favor of the one they loved.
That’s always been one of my favorite stories, and I think we can really learn from it, and from the concept of sacrifice this Christmas season. It’s not about running yourself ragged to say yes to every holiday project and every Christmas event, it’s not about cutting a check for a staggering amount of money, or about giving away half your gifts to prove that you’re not as materialistic as everyone else. It’s about giving sacrificially. It’s about giving away something simple, that means more to the person who’s receiving the gift than it means to you, if you were to keep it for yourself.
I’m preaching to myself with this post. I love Christmastime and I actually love giving. I love picking out just the perfect present for someone I care about, I love getting to give money to the Salvation Army outside the storefronts, I love filling shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse.
But I think the point of a well-crafted Christmas is for us to go further than just doing the things that come naturally with the season, or the things everyone expects us to do, or the things we do every year. It’s about crafting our Christmas, about putting in the extra effort to make it special for someone else, about going that extra mile when we can, and to do it with generosity, love, compassion, and sacrifice.