Joy for that Christmas gift we can’t give ourselves

For weeks, my wife and my mother kept asking what I wanted for Christmas. They kept asking because I wasn’t giving them much in the way of answers.

Even my son, who is not quite three years old, knows what he wants for Christmas: a “spinning bulldozer with tracks.” Now, there’s a toy that sounds like it deserves a line in “Up On the House Top.” (Here is a hammer/and lots of tacks…)

Me? I finally came up with a couple of small items, and a request that my dad help me fix a screen door at my house — or, more accurately since he’s the handier of us, that he let me “help” him do it.

Kind of pitiful.

But then, the comparison between my list and my son’s carol-worthy wish is kind of the point. I think I enjoy Christmas even more now than as a kid: the rest, the family time, the rituals and traditions — everything except the part about the presents.

Rather than the nervous hope I felt for certain gifts as a child — that “I have to have this toy or that one” feeling — more and more I feel something approaching apathy about receiving Christmas gifts. (Luckily for everyone else, I still enjoy giving them.)

This isn’t an anti-materialism rant, and I don’t mean to sound holier-than-thou; there are plenty of things I would like to have but don’t. The source of my apathy, I think, is much more mundane: If there’s something I really want, I can buy it myself.

I don’t depend on anyone else to buy it for me, the way I did as a child. I won’t be irreparably or inconsolably disappointed if I don’t get the things on my list, even if it’s a very short one.

But that attitude only goes as far as the miracle of Santa Claus. It doesn’t cover the original and lasting miracle of Christmas itself.

Those of us who celebrate this as the day of our savior’s birth do so because that day two millenia ago brought a gift we couldn’t give ourselves.

In his excellent book published earlier this year, “King’s Cross,” Timothy Keller examines the gospel according to Mark — an account of Jesus’ life that begins not at his birth in Bethlehem, but at the beginning of his ministry some 30 years later. The first spoken sentences of Jesus recorded by Mark refer to “the good news” of the gift of salvation.

And in discussing the opening chapters of Mark, Keller makes this observation: “The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news.”

I don’t take his observation to be a slight toward other religions, just a distinction. And I freely admit that Christians don’t always make it easy to see that our own religion is about news rather than advice.

But if there is a reason for Christian discomfort with the fact that Christmas has become a spectacle of material gifts that could be purchased any time, it’s this origin of our holy day as the day of a miraculous gift of good news, the day for receiving something we couldn’t otherwise have.

P.S. — I’m away next week, so this is (in all likelihood) my last post of 2011. As usual, comments will go through moderation while I’m away.

I want to thank each of you for being a part of the blog in 2011. We’ve had some great discussions, and I recently hit my last blog-related goal for the year. I appreciate what each of you has done to make this such a successful year. Have a Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you back here in 2012.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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33 comments Add your comment

Santa Klausen

December 23rd, 2011
5:48 pm

This piece scared the H….E..Double hockey sticks out of me, that an adult would have these thoughts.


Mary Elizabeth

December 23rd, 2011
6:12 pm

“I want to thank each of you for being a part of the blog in 2011. We’ve had some great discussions, and I recently hit my last blog-related goal for the year. I appreciate what each of you has done to make this such a successful year.”

And thank you, Kyle, for the kindly spirit you have shown toward us all, including a liberal such as myself. Your post today speaks of the tradition of receiving and giving gifts during the Christmas season. As a Christian, it occurs to me that the greatest gift God gave to mankind was his son, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and spiritual blessings to any others who celebrate God’s grace to us on Earth during this joyous season of the year. May the Holy Spirit continue to bless us all – every one.


December 23rd, 2011
6:36 pm

Kyle, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and may the Peace of the Lord be with you and your family.

I am kinda like you, I prefer to give and really am not comfortable with receiving. So I give.

Christmas in the US really misses the point. Instead of celebrating the birth of the Christ and contemplating His Return, we celebrate the coming of Santa Clause and all the stuff in his bag.

Peace be with you.

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

December 23rd, 2011
6:59 pm

Well, the gift I can’t give to myself is for all the libruls to move out of GA. Not that I’m a Bigot or anything like that. I mean, I guess they can stay if they move to the back of the bus. Anyhow, I wish Kyle and all the other bloggers a Merry Christmas.

What Goes Around Comes Around

December 23rd, 2011
7:10 pm

@Kyle – And I freely admit that Christians don’t always make it easy to see that our own religion is about news rather than advice.

Maybe that is why your religion is misunderstood and maybe seen as hypocritical.

I thought that christianity was about taking advice like “do unto others”, “You reap what you sow”, “what you do for the least”,

Tommy Maddox

December 23rd, 2011
7:16 pm

Tyler Durden

December 23rd, 2011
7:36 pm

Let me know if you find that spinning bulldozer; it sounds simply fantastic– and fantastically simple– which reminds me what all faiths probably like most about the holidays: you get to see things thru the eyes of a child, and it reminds you of the innocence they enjoy. We’d do well to remember that perspective more often throughout the year :-)

Have a good one!

the red herring

December 23rd, 2011
8:17 pm

Kyle—thanks for your support of the taxpaying citizens of the USA!! Merry Christmas to you and the AJC staff. Hopefully we’ll all have a wonderful 2012 (especially November)… May God bless the State of Georgia and the United States of America in the coming year.

Rafe Hollister

December 23rd, 2011
8:19 pm

We have enjoyed your work Kyle, have a Merry Christmas. Rest up for the relentless assault of the big government loving liberals in an election year.

Road Scholar

December 23rd, 2011
8:55 pm

Merry Christmas, Kyle, and have a Happy New Year. I share your enjoyment of the little things that used to get lost in all the used wrapping paper. This year three of my sisters are coming to Georgia to visit for the first time; I used to dream of my family coming here to celebrate together before my mom passed. Better now than never…and at least they aren’t all coming at the same time,but with just the right amount of overlap! Peace!

Ayn Rant

December 23rd, 2011
9:01 pm

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family, Kyle!


December 23rd, 2011
9:59 pm

Me too Kyle. I never made a list !

Merry Christmas !

The Snark

December 23rd, 2011
10:01 pm

“The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news.” Oh Kyle. I’ve read the Gospels a few times and they are full, full, full of advice on how to live your life and how not to. In fact, that’s pretty much all the Man had to say. But it’s hard and uncomfortable stuff (e.g., camels going through eyes of needles.) So contemporary Christians ignore the advice and talk only about the “news” of salvation. But here’s the kicker …

“Salvation” only comes from following the advice.


December 23rd, 2011
10:40 pm

Always a pleasure, Kyle! See you in 2012!


December 23rd, 2011
11:49 pm

First reply I’ve ever made…thank you for sharing “tidings of great joy to all people”! Merry CHRISTmas!


December 24th, 2011
1:42 am

I don’t always agree with your columns but I know where your heart is and I say amen and amen!


December 24th, 2011
2:54 am

Merry Christmas Wingfield!


December 24th, 2011
7:19 am

I dread “Shopmas” every year. Can’t stand the forced celebration of shopping.

The man living across the street from us died this year. Within 2 weeks, there were piles and piles of his stuff left at the curb for the garbage men to haul off. We’re talking something like 40 trash bags, about 20 overstuffed moving boxes, additional piles of stuff. Stuff I’m sure he hadn’t touched in years and years, but couldn’t bring himself to part with it. Really sad to look what was left of his life left at the curb.

If you aren’t using it, donate it and let someone else enjoy it. Share.

Rob Lopez

December 24th, 2011
7:27 am


Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I don’t always agree with your positions but I do agree with this one. We need to remember what our God did for us and celebrate the birth of our Savior. We have been given the most wonderful gift but we often don’t appreciate it. Love your neighbor tomorrow and give a gift to Jesus, as he gives us gifts every single day.


Rob Lopez

Hoof Hearted

December 24th, 2011
7:38 am

I don’t usually agree with you, but I can’t argue with you on this one. Merry Christmas Kyle!


December 24th, 2011
8:02 am

Nice column Kyle.

For me the best part of Christmas now is knowing I can give my family what they want because my wife and I have made good decisions and worked hard.

That and that first cup of coffee on Christmas morning before everyone else gets up, with my English Pointer and Lab laying by my chair, wondering when we’re going for our morning walk.

Life is good. Merry Christmas to everyone, even Obama and Boehner. Although I think they should both get lumps of coal for being so out of touch with the lives of real Americans.


December 24th, 2011
8:23 am

Exchanges of gifts and cards are not just about materialism. They are a concrete way of expressing one of the two meanings of Christmas, the one traditionally expressed as “good will to men”, the one that can be celebrated by anyone, not just Christians.

An American

December 24th, 2011
8:36 am

I’m disappointed that at this time of the winter solecist, when so many different religions celebrate an idea far older than any current religion – that the rebirth of the sun signifies the rebirth of hope – that Mr. Wingfield choses to proclaim his interpretation of his religion as news, i.e. fact, and others as “advise.” I understand he believes that, just as all of the other religions believe their religion is fact and his version of Christianity is “advise.” Or as Joseph Campbell puts it, “Mythology is other people’s religion.”

But Mr. Wingfield, the truth is that all religions are based on faith, not fact. In this case, for example, the “news” is there is no extant original source of the Gospel of Mark, no evidence that it existed until at least 40 years after the death of Jesus, that it was probably written in Syria in a language that Jesus did not speak, and that like all of the Gospels it was written anonymously and was not even named until at least a century after Jesus’s death. While millions of Christians, and even some Biblical scholars, have faith that Mark was a real person who witnessed Jesus’s ministry, there are no facts to conclusively deny or support that belief.

Columns like your’s demonstrate that the seasonal “war” is not on Christmas, but on faiths other than Christianity. I’m sure in your mind you only meant to proclaim your faith, but by conflating faith with fact you showed profound ignorance of your own religion’s history and disrespect to other Americans’ faith.


December 24th, 2011
8:43 am


Richer and smarter than you

December 24th, 2011
8:51 am

Jesus was born in the summer moron, but I am sure he would be proud of you for your disgust and hatred for the poor and your never ending protection for the super wealthy.

The Anti-Wooten

December 24th, 2011
9:42 am

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year Kyle.


December 24th, 2011
10:29 am

Merry Christmas to you, too, Mark. I am one of the weirdos who happens to believe that the Bible is far more intricate than it seems. You have certainly hit the nail on the head: No matter how rich or powerful we are, there are some things that are beyond our human ability to do or understand fully and correctly. Those who claim their understandings to be the same as what God set out for us scare me–you have the temerity to think you can understand or speak for God? That seems so presumptive, so self-deluded.

So we humans have rocked along for another year, puffed up and full of ourselves. It takes a little baby in a manger to show us we (ALL of us, left and right) are just full of ourselves before His throne.


December 24th, 2011
11:14 am

Merry X-Mas Kyle and to all at the AJC.


December 24th, 2011
11:23 am

Often, we never think about the long terms effects we put into our society. Had it not been for generations before all of us; perhaps gifts would not be a symbolization of Christmas. I am not sure if many people still celebrates giving gifts verse paying honor to the savior birth. I would begun by saying and praying that we (all) pay attention to being honest and truthful to our lives here on earth; for it could be a matter that our last days is coming! I do think that we are into materialist items that really destroys our reasons for life. yes, we have those who have it, some getting it and those will not! In the very end, we cannot take any of our materialist things with us; we merely leave them behind for others to enjoy or pay for. Our world was not ment to be this complicated, our Forefathers made it rather uncomplex but man came along and merely destroyed what they put in place. I have hopes for our children that our world would somehow mend itself of so many things that has indeed destroyed our minds that more is better and you have to be in with the “in crowd.” We send a very disturbing messages to our children and also to the world that we are better than anybody and everyone. That is not so…if it were, our elected officials would not be doing what they are doing in an effort to hurt and destory those who have elected them to serve the people! Like, you I am deeply hurt and troubled by the state of our United States of America. May 2012 be more apprecited by those who will guide and protect this land and its people. We don’t need our Congressmen and Representatives to stay in place for years after years and not be held to the highest in their duties to the american citizens. It is time we cut their veins so that they cannot continue to live off of us, the tax payers and not be given returns when our nation goes through such a poor economy after we have invested billons of dollars to all of the fails banks and companies that in return has not step up and try to make things right. That would be such a great and noble thing to do!

Liberal Pariah

December 24th, 2011
9:06 pm

Evelyn Heinz

December 25th, 2011
8:34 am

Just want to say a big AMEN, to your column. When people ask me what I want for Christmas I like to say,”PEACE ON EARTH!”

Hindu Elvis Pimp

December 25th, 2011
12:45 pm

You do realize Christmas was hijacked from the Pagans?

They celebrated the winter solstice, knowing the daylight hours would become longer, thus bringing in the growing season. It was the Christians that stole it, then told everyone a hippie named Jesus was born that day, then killed everyone that did not fall in to line. To say: ” it’s this origin of our holy day as the day of a miraculous gift of good news, the day for receiving something we couldn’t otherwise ” is absurd and down right cruel to those that lost their lives and way of life by not becoming a Christian.


December 27th, 2011
8:53 am

Christmas rings gift, happiness and enjoyous gatherings. 2011 hold very specail meaning for me and my family; we witness the return of our soldiers and at the christmas decorations at our subdivisins’ entrance, we also welcome them. It is not about giving gifts, or even milling over what one may want; rather, we share our lives with joy and hope. We also we are all bother by the fussing and continuation of problems in our country, these United States of America! We need to get on track and do what is right by all and not just for a few. We stand on the values of what we know is wrong and thousands tried to make it right; that is what we all should want for Christmas 2011.