Christmas Gift Ideas, or, A Gift of Ideas (Updated)

By now, you’ve probably seen a good number of gift idea lists, including the one offered last week by our own Keith Simon. I’ll admit that I regret not thinking of a similar list earlier. After all, it’s amazing how quickly Tuesday—a.k.a. “my day to post”—rolls around every week. But even if I could come up with few good ideas, it likely wouldn’t do you much good at this point anyway. That is, unless you’re like me and you’re a bit, um, dilatory in your shopping.

So I decided to up the ante. Instead of giving the loyal readers of ESI gift ideas, why shouldn’t I give you a gift? Of course, that could mean getting a gift for as many as a half dozen people. And there’s only so much holiday cheer I can spread.

Undaunted, however, I came up with the solution: a gift of ideas, food for thought to help you peek through the bustle and busyness (both good and bad) of the holiday season and glimpse the glory, fragility, and the desperately needed grace of Christmas.

And though it’s grammatically awkward, I can still technically call these “Christmas gift ideas.”

So here you go, a list with a few comments of my own, and a sincere Merry Christmas to you.

1. First off, the consistently thoughtful Ross Douthat recently offered up a interesting piece entitled “A Tough Season for Believers” in his regular New York Times column. From the closing paragraph:

Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom—and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.

2. From the “How Did We Get Here?” department: NPR’s Nina Totenberg apologizes for using the expression “a Christmas party”:

As a single incident, this isn’t a big deal. But it’s worth asking: does it reflect some kind of wider cultural reality or point to a spot further down the path on which we seem to be traveling?

UPDATE: It appears the critics, including me, have wrongly interpreted Totenberg’s comments. From a story in the Washington Post:

Then we reached Totenberg herself during her “Christmas vacation” (her term) in Jamaica. Turns out her critics got it completely wrong: She was, she says, defending Christmas. The DOJ celebration was officially dubbed a “holiday” party, and she was gently mocking that generic designation. “I think that’s kind of silly because it’s obviously a Christmas party,” she told us. “I was tweaking the Department of Justice. It was a touch of irony at the expense of the Justice department, not at the expense of Christmas.”

As for the bloggers who were so quick to judge — without bothering to ask her what she meant: “Jeesh, these folks need a life — and perhaps a touch of the Christmas spirit, as well.”

Consider this blogger appropriately chastened.

3. If you’re a U2 fan (and you should be), you’ll appreciate this article by Julie Clawson over at The Christian Century, as well as the band’s accompanying video, “I Believe in Father Christmas.” It’s amazing what a single word change can do to a song’s interpretation.

4. If you’ve got preschoolers and missed these posts last year, my wife came up with a short series of devotional activities that will help your youngest kids begin to grasp the significance of Christmas. Check them out here: #1, #2, and #3.

5. While being thankful for the relative societal tranquility that we typically enjoy this time of year, we might also remember and pray for fellow Christians who must observe Christ’s birth in turbulent and dangerous circumstances. The situation of many Iraqi Christians (1) reminds us that Christmas really is worth celebrating and (2) encourages us to look toward and pray for the time when the Prince of Peace brings peace at last.

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