Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Samuel Neves, associate director of communication, Seventh-day Adventist Church

It was approaching midnight on Christmas Eve and our excitement was palpable. I was 6 years old and already fully versed in capitalism: a deep desire for more toys. We were celebrating Christmas with a group of families from the military. However, my parents failed to think that through. These were the families of high ranking officials, a fact clearly demonstrated by the car park and the sheer quantity and quality of toys being unwrapped around the tree. 

As each child opened numerous toys, my sister and I remained in eager anticipation, waiting for our gifts. Our family was experiencing the worse financial crisis in our history as a family. Towards the end of the long gift opening ceremony, I was given a small package that even then I could hold in one hand. It was a cheap wooden puzzle. My sister unwrapped a small doll. 

Amidst the remote-control boats and other desirable gadgets, my puzzle was a sad excuse for affection. It seemed my parents love for me could be measured, after all, and it didn’t amount to much. The questions could not be silenced from our minds. How could they give us such poor toys? Can you imagine how much the other children were loved?

The next morning, I only had one toy I could play with. My dad stooped down and played with me. He showed me the different ways the cheap wooden puzzle could be solved. My mother, on the other hand, demonstrated a remarkable inability to solve it in any of these ways. Even now I can vividly remember the colors and the patterns of each piece. We spent the next few days playing and laughing together. 

That Christmas became unforgettable precisely because we had very little to distract us from each other. Unrestricted by entertainment and material positions, my parents communicated that I was worthy of love and belonging. That experience of connection has unlocked a depth of joy that has become the gold standard for any Christmas thereafter.  

It was in Jesus that God stooped down into our world to reconnect us to himself. The core message of the gospel is that each of us is worthy of love and belonging. As we celebrate His birth we cannot allow any of the material distractions to disconnect us from each other. After all, love is attention.

Some sentences are worth repeating. Love is attention. Regardless of your Christmas budget, I hope we can remember that no gift can communicate love more effectively than our time. It is only by giving God our full attention that we will experience connection to the King who was born in that stable. As we give each other our full attention we will also communicate that each human being is worthy of love and belonging. That would certainly make this holiday season very joyful and truly unforgettable.