Count Your Blessings Early

Published December 22, 1983. Each year at this time, we usually focus on either what we are going to give or going to get for Christmas. Perhaps there is another question that also deserves our attention during our frantic attempts to both get and give. What do we already have before Christmas Day arrives?

As the annual countdown for Christmas is about to end, it may be well to sit down and individually or collectively recall all we now have and enjoy before Santa and the day of gift-giving arrives. While our children may appear to have unending wants, it may be wise to help them understand they already have a great deal before Christmas comes. Children may argue and point out all they don’t have and, better still, want. Perhaps we in this country have so much, we have lost the perspective of the great many blessings, and in many ways gifts, we now enjoy.

Jesus, whose birthday we are about to celebrate, said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Whenever we read this biblical verse, we think that Jesus spoke of the non-material abundance in life, and perhaps that is what He meant. But the facts are, we in this country also have a material abundance that is largely unknown outside the United States. This is true regardless of which political organization is in power.

It is also true we have our problems—unemployment, hunger, and sickness to name a few. But still, the average family in the United States is wealthy when compared with others in the world. The vast majority of people in this country are economically better off than the vast majority of people in other countries.

Those more familiar with economics may correct me, but I understand that the U.S. has a population of about 220 million, a tiny part of the world’s nearly 5 billion people. Yet we have a disproportionate amount of the world’s wealthy and a major portion of the annual income world-wide.

A large percentage of United States citizens have a warm house to live in. We have enough food and adequate clothing to wear. Comparatively speaking, we enjoy good health. In the United States a person can now expect to live 70 years or longer. In many other countries a person often lives fewer than 40 years. We own a large share of the world’s automobiles and telephones, not available or affordable to most people elsewhere. We have been truly blessed with an abundant life regarding material things that are seldom enjoyed by others.

But more importantly, there are many other non-materialistic things we also enjoy as part of the abundant life. We have many freedoms experienced by few others. These include the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly. Which other country has declared in an official statement or document that ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ are major goals for its citizens? Certainly part of the happiness in the abundant life is shared in experiences with our loved ones including our parents, brothers and sisters, friends, children, spouse, and other family members.

Christmas and the entire Christmas season is an opportune time to experience that abundance as we renew relations and recommit ourselves to each other. It is a time for enjoying people perhaps more so than presents.

Susan and I realize that each Christmas is unique. Our children are growing up, their grandparents are getting older, and we now realize, so are we. We hope we will be able to spend many more Christmas seasons together, for it can be a time of rejoicing, renewal, and reflecting.

During this Christmas season may we all appreciate and enjoy the abundant life of which Christ spoke in its many forms.

Merry Christmas from the Barlows.

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