Merry Christmas! It is impossible to believe that it is that time of year again. The clock is ticking at warp speed. I feel like I was just putting away the Christmas decorations yesterday and now I am taking them out again. The wrapping paper is piled high. The gift list gets longer, and my bank account gets slimmer and slimmer. Now I wonder who created this awful monster called “Season's Greetings!”

Tenney yevet
Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writ...

It was those Wise Men who wound their way across the desert following the Bethlehem Star. They carried the first Christmas gifts to the Christ Child. Since that time, millions have been spent to fill mountains of wrapping paper and miles of ribbons with gifts ranging from electronics to the latest eye-catching gadget. Thousands are still paying their credit card bills from last year’s Christmas, and thousands more will max out their credit cards this year. For what? A fleeting moment when someone will smile, say thank you and with hardly a glance, turn to the next package under the tree.

When the piles of wrapping paper, boxes and ribbons clutter the room, the unwrapped gifts are piled in chairs and the children head out to play with the one toy they like best, there is a sad creeping feeling of disappointment. Was it worth it? Where is the lasting joy? Where is the smile of satisfaction that should accompany gift giving? Where is the “merry” in Merry Christmas?

From the grandma chair, I have learned a few tricks to making Christmas worth the effort and bringing the merry part back into the gift giving.

It’s not the cliché, “It is better to give than to receive.”


The first key is recognizing that gift giving is not a selfish thing. Often, we lavish others with expensive gifts (we often can’t afford) because it will make us look better or we know that their gift to us will be expensive. Often with this attitude, we forget why we are giving the gift in the first place.

After World War II, my dad returned home. He had a 2-year-old daughter he had never seen (my sister, Margaret Ann). Naturally, he wanted their first Christmas together to be spectacular. Mother and he went on a shopping spree. Everything Margaret Ann even smiled at, they bought and set under the Christmas tree for a surprise on Christmas morning. They gathered in the grandparents' living room to wait for her to enter.

She tottered sleepily into the room. To my parents’ and grandparents’ amazement, she looked at the tree and all the toys and sat down in the middle of the floor and began to weep. She sobbed and sobbed. She wasn’t crying for a gift that wasn’t there. She was crying because she was overwhelmed. She had never seen so many gifts in her whole life.

Finally, she stopped crying and went to the tree and gave the gifts one by one to Grandpa, Grandma, Mom and Dad. She shared all the gifts before she stopped to play with any of the toys. Somehow in her own childish way, she understood that Christmas is not a selfish time. Gifts are to be shared and everyone needs a token of love. She made each of her gifts special by giving them away.

Putting merry in Christmas is sacrifice. No, I’m not talking about putting the gifts on a credit card and paying for them all year. That is a sacrifice, but the kind of sacrifice I’m talking about is giving part of yourself.

It is easy to put many trinkets under the tree for children, but it’s not so easy to give them our time. After working hard all year, when you finally have one vacation to spend a few hours alone, it’s hard to spend an hour with a child assembling a puzzle or playing a board game. That is a sacrifice. If we sacrifice, somehow the sacrifice comes back pressed down and overflowing with happiness.

My brother, as the head of his church committee, decided to teach an object lesson on sacrifice. The committee decided to have a white-elephant auction and give the proceeds to the poor. The only thing about this auction was that each person had to give up something that was special to them. My brother, the perpetrator of the object lesson, was caught in his own snare. He realized he must be the example. When it came down to it, his most precious worldly possession was the saddle he treasured from his days on the ranch. He tried to think of other things he could give, but he knew that his integrity was on the line. The saddle must be the gift for the auction.

Tears stinging his eyes, he carried the saddle to the auction table and set it down, being careful to hide his tears. His wife saw the pain in his face and knew the greatness of his sacrifice.

Afraid he’d cry, he walked out of the room while they auctioned his saddle. When the auctioneer said, “Sold,” he didn’t have the heart to come back into the room to see who bought his saddle. When he looked at the table, it was gone, and he understood the true emotion of sacrifice.

The story doesn’t end there. On Christmas morning, his sacrifice was rewarded. There, under the Christmas tree, was his saddle. His wife bought it back for him. Whatever we give away in the spirit of true sacrifice will come back. Maybe not the exact thing we give away, but the rewards will come and they will be much greater than the sacrifice.

Finding the merry in Christmas is learning to appreciate and show appreciation for the gifts we receive. Appreciation comes from understanding. For example, we don’t fully appreciate a gift unless it’s something we have wanted and needed. When my husband and I moved our family from Wickenburg, Arizona, we moved into a tent, a horse trailer and a small overhead camper. We moved in July. At first camping was fun, but as winter came, it wasn’t fun. A friend loaned us a fifth-wheel camper trailer and an aunt gave us an old mobile home. In the dead of winter, we were miserable without central heating, electric blankets or even a fireplace. We melted snow to do the dishes and take baths. Finally, the snow and mud got so deep that we had to move into my parents’ house for a couple of months. Miserable was an understatement.

That Christmas, we talked about the gifts we appreciated most. It wasn’t the doll or the truck under the tree. One daughter said, “I’m grateful for running water.” Another said, “I’m glad to have a heater.” Electricity was mentioned by another. They learned to appreciate the simple things. Too often we lavish our children with too many gifts. The gift they really need is the one they already have. Teach them to give to the less fortunate. Teach them about the magical gift of true sacrifice. Teach them how to appreciate the gifts they receive.

Finally, remembering the Savior’s gifts to us will make Christmas shine with greater magic. One of my readers, Dr. Richard Summers, called and told me a story that illustrates this point. I share it with his permission:

It was a hot, sultry day when he drove out on his range. He noticed a cow and her calf. At first, they were in the shade of the barn, but when the cow grew hungry, she moved out into the pasture to graze. The calf followed her and lay down in her shadow. As the cow moved, the shadow moved, and the calf got up and moved into her shadow. Each time the cow moved, the calf followed, always staying in the shade created by the shadow. The calf followed her mother all morning, diligently seeking, finding and staying in her shadow.

God’s grace is such a blessing of protection from the blazing sin-filled world. If we stay in His shadow, we have His protection and His magnificent grace. As we remember the gift of His life, His service and teachings, we are in His shadow, or His grace. He will show us how to navigate the tsunami of sin that we face daily, and He alone can bring the Christmas magic we seek. His grace will bring the merry to Christmas, and season's greetings will be as magical as the day the Wise Men gave gifts to the Christ Child.