As we approach the day of Christmas, when Christians believe that God has come into the world through the Christ child, born in Bethlehem, it is a time to bring good will to all and peace on earth. Yet it seems during this time we are conflicted. Christians have lived in a multi-cultural country for more than 200 years. What is different in the 21st century is that the many voices who make up our country have found avenues to express themselves, and now the Christmas season means different things to different groups of people.

But one common ground at the time of year seems to be the giving of gifts: Wall Street, manufacturers, retailers, Christians and non-Christians alike are drawn together by a tradition that began with the wise men at the manger and continued in our traditions through St. Nicholas and Santa Claus. It is about giving to those close to us, to those who may need a helping hand, to those who may not have a Christmas without the generosity of many who participate in toy drives sponsored by various churches, organizations and businesses.

Giving today has become complicated. Some in my family have said that they have so much that they really do not want anymore, so I should just give to a local charity. Some I think are worried I will give them something they don’t need or want, and I worry they will ‘re-gift’ the present anyway. So, instead of taking the risk I just give them a gift card to their favorite store, or better yet, a pre-paid credit card.

But this is the sad thing. As we unpacked the Christmas decorations and placed the snow globes, Christmas plates, wall hangings, nativity scenes and ornaments around the house, I realized each had a story: Each has a memory of a Christmas when we were given or purchased that gift. As we unpack each one we tell the story of that ornament, or that Christmas plate, or the snow globe and we remember the love that was behind the gift.

I have now helped ‘downsize’ two households. The problem is: when choices need to be made as to what to keep or not to keep, it is not the ‘stuff’ the people accumulated but the special gifts that have a back story of memories of love and family that are hard to give away.

Christmas is not just about giving things, but creating memories of the love of friends and family that is an example of the great love God has for us.

This is all I want for Christmas: good memories of Christmas 2013 to add to my continuing stories of love and good will and peace on earth.

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