December 12, 2003

The Last Garage Sale
by Donald G. Mashburn

The Christmas shopping season has a full head of steam, and many are rushing to acquire “stuff,” not because they need it, but because advertisers say they do. We’re letting the pursuit of “stuff” obscure the true meaning of Christmas.

But we need to remember that any durable “stuff” we acquire in this life can make for good bargains at the “Last Garage Sale” – the last one that’s in any way connected to who we were.

It’s sad to think that a one-day garage sale, when your accumulated “stuff” is sold to strangers, could be the final memorial to your life!

Some Christmas’s ago, the giving and goodwill, and celebrating Christ’s birthday, combined to give us that special “Christmas feeling.” Now that feeling seems to exist mostly in memory. Today’s shopping mall crowds seem to see Christmas as the “Holiday Season,” the label used by the secular media and the world, which prefer Christmas without Christ.

Christmas without Christ, however, simply isn’t Christmas. He’s the “Reason for the season,” as we hear ever year. He’s the very essence of Christmas, and what giving out of love is all about.

Jesus Christ, Himself, was and continues to be the greatest Christmas gift the world has ever seen.

Consider all that His coming meant to mankind and the getting of stuff seems meaningless. Moreover, stuff has never been shown to be an essential ingredient for a happy and useful life.

All the stuff in the world can’t make us better, pay the penalty for our sins, or reconcile us to a holy God. Jesus did all that, and in Him alone can we have any hope for eternity.

This Christmas, thousands of our service men and women are in harm’s way, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. To them, staying alive and returning to family and loved ones is of more value than all the stuff found in shopping malls and mail order houses.

But for some military families, the stuff from holiday buying will be on the skimpy side, since many of them don’t have a lot of money to spread around shopping malls. But fortunately, for most of them, Christmas will have a meaning much deeper than that shown by the stuff gatherers.

The “gatherers” are those who will go all out in shopping sprees they call “part of the fun” of Christmas. They’ll buy as much stuff as their money and credit allow. Some may be so fervent in their quest for stuff they’re willing to fight others for it.

Which is what some mothers did early in the “Cabbage Patch Doll” craziness. In one store that had only a few dolls available, the television cameras captured two mothers fighting over the last doll.

Still, no matter how hard we fight for the stuff we buy, some of it won’t even work when it’s opened Christmas morning. Some of it will be broken or become non-operational within a few days.

None of it can be taken with us when we leave this life. And if taken too seriously, stuff can have eternal consequences, if it keeps us from knowing and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Giving gifts, of course, has become a part of Christmas. And a good part, if done out of love and a desire to help others. But buying and receiving stuff shouldn’t become too big a part of the process.

The most meaningful gift any of us can give is ourselves, and will always be “in season.” Giving our time and possessions to others in need gives Christmas a special meaning not found in shopping malls.

While we’re at it, Christmas is a good time to teach our children, and remind ourselves, that Christ is what Christmas is about, not “stuff.”

Stuff – the part that lasts till we die – is for that last garage sale. Christ is forever.