You know the small wire hooks used to hang ornaments on the Christmas tree? Well, they’re out of them, at least where I live. Wal-Mart is out. Walgreens is out. So are CVS and the Dollar Store. Nada. I’ve made repeat visits. No hooks.
So I began asking, what’s with the missing hooks? One megastore clerk explained that suppliers didn’t send enough this year so as soon as they arrive, they’re snatched up. A cashier had a different story: Retailers actually requested fewer hooks this year because they didn’t want any leftovers after Christmas. She lamented, "I can’t finish decorating my tree."
Neither can we. Our chubby snowmen and painted Styrofoam balls with the kids’ pics are resting on tree branches, precariously. When they fall off, daily, I stick them back up, and think bad thoughts about those retailers.
But how different are we from them?
Do we limit the things that those around us need? Like love? Like generosity? Like kindness? Do we measure such things to make sure we’re not "overdoing" or "giving too much" so that we aren’t stuck holding the bag?
We all get sentimental at Christmas. And generous. This is a good thing. It means that there is still some "real meaning of Christmas" out there. I love to see people dropping coins and stuffing dollars into the Salvation Army’s collection globes. And churches become more generous too. Ours is purchasing specific clothes and toys for several families that otherwise would have none. And my niece’s youth group brought a Christmas tree to a single mom, complete with decorations and gifts to go under it. Examples abound.
But what happens after Christmas? We sure don’t want any of that "leftover" love. It might actually force us to keep loving, to keep being generous, to keep giving.
I have a family in my neighborhood that seems to need a lot of love. When the children first began arriving at my door after school, it was nice to have the company and the children for mine to play with. But soon it was every day. Gosh, I thought. This is kind of a lot. Then their older sister began coming over, asking to borrow things or use the computer. Finally, I realized it wasn’t just about something to do or something to borrow -- it was about needing love.
Pastor Steve Brown once said, “Love is extravagant. When you are in love, you don’t give skimpily. You lavish the beloved,” because . . . well, they are the beloved. And human love, as tainted and broken as it can sometimes be, is nothing less than a reflection -- a tiny portion -- of divine love.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He sent His Son.” We have grown so accustomed to these words that we scarcely hear them. But they reveal nothing less than the whole motivation behind what we are celebrating right now -- the gift of God’s Son -- and ultimately the motivation we have to love: God’s love for us.
The Scriptures tell the story of how God first sent His Word, then His prophets, and then, last of all, His Son. His SON. Would you send your son to a bunch of whining, selfish, mean, cruel, but oh-so-hurting folks? Pretty sure I wouldn’t. That’s why our love is a poor shadow of His. His Love is extravagant. And what’s more, it doesn’t stop after Christmas. Jesus lived, taught, suffered brutal punishment and pain, died a human death, and faced spiritual separation from his Father, all for us. But there’s more. Beyond his triumph, His love continues. He has sent His Spirit to reside with us -- that means sticky involvement pure and simple. He grieves with us, hopes with us, suffers with us, endures with us -- loves us.
So perhaps this Christmas, we could take the challenge to let love continue past the festivities. To decide that we won’t limit our kindness, or generosity, or our involvement with those who need us to the holidays, but will let it spill over to our life every day -- knowing that it is His love that works through us if we, like the ornaments on the tree, will stay "hooked" to Him. After all, unlike hooks for the Christmas tree, extra love never goes unused.
Now I’m off to the store . . . just to check once more.
Ginny Mooney is a freelance writer and Emmy Award-winning television producer.
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