I remember well the Christmases of my childhood. Seldom did we sleep well on Christmas Eve. I doubt we had “visions of sugar-plums” dancing in our heads, but I’m sure we had thoughts of Matchbox cars, army men, fishing gear, and bicycles – thoughts about “stuff.”
After I became a follower of Christ at age 13, Christmas took on new meaning. Christ was my personal Savior – and suddenly the “stuff” of Christmas presents lost some of its meaning. Sure, I still wanted stuff like any teenager did, but things had indeed changed a bit. Living in the light of eternity does that, you know. The temporary things of this world lose their significance when we really know the God of Christmas.
I remember another Christmas many years later when I found myself sitting in traffic, stuck with others who had delayed their shopping until almost too late. In the distance, seemingly hanging in the dark sky, was a lighted sign that read, “Happy Holidays!”—and I noticed it even as I was doing two things that usually don’t make me very happy: waiting in traffic and going to the mall.
While sitting in my car, I smelled a horrendous odor in the distance – so strong, in fact, that the stench worked its way through my closed car windows. What I could not see in the dark was a large garbage dump in the distance. Mounds of garbage piled high, and men and trucks working overtime continually dumped even more refuse on those piles.
The whole scene seemed odd, actually, as I thought about it more. So many people were on their way to shop that traffic only crawled. Our cars lined up by the dozens, all on our way to buy “stuff”– stuff that would eventually wind up at the top of this same dump. We were spending temporary money to buy temporary stuff that could offer only temporary happiness—and that would ultimately land on this temporary pile off the side of this road.