Yesterday was my nephew’s birthday, which is always a reminder that Christmas is only three months away. That’s right – there are only 76 more shopping days until Christmas!

Most people don’t want to be reminded this early that Christmas is coming, but already a few of the stores are putting out Christmas items, hoping to draw in the early shoppers.

I am most definitely one of those early shoppers. As soon as December 26 dawns, I begin thinking about gifts for the next Christmas. For some of those on my list an idea might come quickly. For others I need a lot more creativity.

But I always enjoy looking for the gifts that I think might bring pleasure and happiness to those who receive them. Since I see very few of my loved ones opening the gifts I give, I try to imagine the look on their face when they see what is in the box. Then I hope that it will not be a look of disappointment, meaning that the box will be closed and put on a shelf somewhere, only to be found years later.

Each year our Christmas list seems to grow a little, as the family is blessed with new arrivals and new friends. With the arrival of each new family member or friend comes a new challenge – what to give them for Christmas. That is when we have to become a Christmas-time Perry Mason, looking for clues as to what they like and don’t like. It’s not hard – all we have to do is listen. Most people give little hints from time to time as to the things they like – or really don’t like. From those little hints we can create our shopping list.

Everyone likes to be remembered. Many times people will say “Oh, you don’t have to get anything for me,” but when it comes right down to it, everyone likes to be remembered. Many times it is not the gift itself that is as important as the warm feeling we get from knowing that someone cared enough to take some time to think about a gift, to shop for it and make sure it was delivered in time for the special day. This is true not only for Christmas, but any special day of the year.

The same can be true for Christmas cards (as well as birthday, anniversary or even simple little thinking of you cards). People have so many excuses for not sending Christmas cards: Cards are so expensive these days, postage is ridiculous, I just don’t have enough time and the lamest excuse (to me), is, people just don’t read them anyhow.

Yes, cards can be expensive. But everyone has sales and affordable cards. Many times you can get a box with a dozen cards for $5 or less. Adding postage makes each card mailed less than one dollar. How many gifts, that can be looked at over and over again, can you get for a dollar?

As for time, everyone seems to find enough time to do the things they really want to do. If there isn’t enough time, maybe we just didn’t want to do it in the first place.

There probably are people who throw their cards away as soon as they are received. But there are also people who hang on to those cards for years, with each card bringing back memories of the family member or friend who sent it every time it is opened.

Yes, there are only 76 shopping days left until Christmas. But that also means we still have 76 days to complete our shopping, send out those cards and still have time for making all the other preparations for our Christmas celebration.

Cards that we will be sending out this year have a simple message: When it comes right down to it, Christmas is all about Jesus. It reminds me of a little chorus we learned many years ago in Sunday school: J is for Jesus, he has first place. O is for others, we meet face to face. Y is for you and whatever you do. Put yourself third and spell JOY.

If we want joy in our Christmas celebration this year, the solution is simple: Honor Jesus first, remember others second and take care of ourselves last. Over the years I have learned that when I do put Jesus first and others second, I still have plenty of time for me.

Only 76 shopping days . . .

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Thought for the week — We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. (Winston Churchill)76

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