Isn't it easy to get sidetracked during the Christmas season? Even with all the music and Christmas cards and Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men? That's sort of the subject of my latest newspaper column. Sometimes the message we need to hear, the one to get us focused back on more important things, has been in our ears all along. We just need to listen.
Thanks for reading. Here's my latest article.
No Christmas music until November 1. That’s a family rule. Unless it snows, of course. Then all bets are off, all sanctions on Saint Nicholas end, and the family is free to rock around the Christmas tree at will.
For two months Christmas songs become the soundtrack of our family’s daily life, but within days their message fades into the background. The music is playing, but any number of Jingle Bells may ring or Herald Angels sing, and at best I’m humming half a chorus every third song.
Still we add to the family Christmas music library. In November, 2009 we bought “Give This Christmas Away” by Matthew West and Amy Grant. Imagine my surprise when the calendar flipped to December 2010, and I finally heard the song.
Now I’d listened to it a bunch. Even sang along. But it took a year before I finally heard it.
“Give This Christmas Away.” Really?
The song was written by Matthew West for a children’s Christmas movie. The video features children around the world opening Christmas gifts from an international charity. The gifts are simple - books, balls, teddy bears - but the children’s faces radiate pure joy.
Those simple gifts cause children to run and smile and cheer. Mouths drop open in amazement. Little hands clasp boxes as if they hold the world’s greatest treasure. One boy in oversized sunglasses tosses a soccer ball repeatedly, the shininess of the new ball exceeded only by the brightness of his smile.
“That’s it?” I thought. All that joy from those simple gifts? There are five beat-up soccer balls in our garage causing very little joy at this moment, but one new ball can make a boy bounce like he’s never seen a new ball before?
Maybe he hasn’t.
So, yeah, it took me a year to hear the song. But now I’m wondering. What it?
What if, this Christmas, we all decided, simply, to give?
What if we all donated outgrown winter clothes to a Keep Kids Warm campaign or provided one toy for Toys for Tots? What if we all took one angel off the Angel Tree and bought a gift for a child in need or bought one prepackaged bag of food at the grocery store for the local food pantry?
And we’re all allotted the same 24 hours in a day. What if we give some of that away?
Shortly after we moved into a new house I came home grumbling about the time I would have to waste that evening shoveling the recent snowfall. We arrived home to a clean driveway, cleared by a mystery neighbor. The time I'd “waste” shoveling was suddenly back into my evening schedule, but then I ended up outside anyway, with a neighbor, shoveling someone else’s driveway.
Giving is contagious, apparently.
Make a meal for another family. Provide the neighborhood kids with hot chocolate on the next snow day. Present an elderly neighbor with a tray of Christmas goodies or offer them a ride to church or the grocery store.
The song says, “Your life will be changed by the gifts you receive when you give this Christmas away.”
Giving can changes lives. Maybe even your own.
For more information about the song and artist, including the video, please visit Help Readers Too.