Much more than a jar of sand

This is the time of year for proclamations: zero percent financing, no payments until spring, doors open at 5 a.m., the sales event of the year, buy one get one free, the year’s hottest gift idea, some assembly required, only nine shopping days left. And so goes the spirit of a typical American Christmas — inflate that Santa, string those lights, cheer on those elves, and listen for reindeer hooves on the roof. Dad wants a new cordless thingy. Mom wants memory foam. The kids want anything that takes double-A batteries. So go ahead, swipe the card (cha-ching), you certainly need all this stuff, and it’s only debt. Materialism gone viral.

But this is a time for giving, and cheer, and sleigh bells, and eggnog, you say. Sure, and that’s all fine. But while we’ve been draping tinsel and decking the halls and banging around in the garage at two in the morning searching for socket wrenches, while we’ve been stampeding the local malls before dawn, in our mad rush to buy things we call gifts because that’s what Christmas is all about, we’ve stuffed the real gift of Christmas so far back under the tree that few are those who find it.

We don’t need a white Christmas, we need a real Christmas.

I heard a story about a teacher. He set a big jar on his desk and carefully placed fist-sized rocks in it, right up to the top. “Is the jar full?” he asked his class. They said “yes.” Then he took pebbles and sprinkled them into the jar so they rattled down among the rocks until they reached the top. “Is the jar full now?” he asked. “Yes, now it’s full,” his students agreed. The teacher smiled and shook his head. Then he poured sand into the jar so the grains flowed down around the pebbles and around the big rocks, filling in every nook and cranny right to the very top. Then he tamped the sand down tight with his palm. “Now it’s full,” he said.

And then, he explained. The jar is our life and the big rocks are the things that matter the most, the people who we love and who love us. The pebbles are the things we actually need: a place to get out of the rain, a way to make a living, a way to get from here to there and back again, clothing, food to eat, warm covers at night. The sand is all the other stuff that we’ve convinced ourselves that we need: flat-screen TVs and boats and RVs and fancy vacations and parties and the latest fashions and all the gadgets that blink and whirr with their glowing screens that tell us the humidity in Kuala Lumpur right now.

If you start by filling your jar with rocks, the teacher said, you will always have room for pebbles, and even a little sand. But if you pack your jar with sand and pebbles, you won’t be able add even a single rock, and your life, though stuffed to the top, will be empty.

The real meaning of Christmas — the proclamation that has been drowned out by the ring of commercialism — is found in Matthew, Chapter 1. The angel speaking to Joseph about Mary says, “And she will bear a son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”

We don’t need gadgets and stuff bought with plastic; we need the savior; we the need the forgiveness that brings eternal life — God’s free gift, paid for with the life of His son.

Of course, there are still several shopping hours left. There’s still time to tamp down a little more sand.

Please follow and like us: