My grandmother Bernice, or Granny as we called her, was a pistol. There was never a room she entered that she couldn't fill. She was loud, boisterous, funny, joyous, and easily excitable. While I have many happy memories of Granny, Christmas has been different without her.

Like many in Granny's era, the Great Depression defined her use of her resources. In other words, she recycled before we knew to call it recycling. If something was still possibly usable, it mustn't be thrown away! Leftovers were re-served till they were gone, even when food was a little "blinky" — our family term for food on that dangerous borderline of having gone bad. She used this principle with everything: dishes, jelly glasses, costume jewelry, clothes, tools, furniture and especially Christmas cards and bows.

We sometimes made fun of her practices — and it was funny at times how her old things combined in odd sorts of ways with her gifts — but Granny's conservation practices were something most of us needed to learn in our wasteful time. Her joy at Christmas was not tied to be being chic, but tied to being together.

This Christmas, I received no presents with bows that had been used for the past seven years on other presents. I received no gifts with recycled card fronts with my name written on them — I'm talking about card fronts cut off of greeting cards sent to their original owner 10 or more years ago. We only ate leftovers from a meal one time and not four days in a row. And, Granny's boisterous joy was missed.

Even more, her principle of recycling Christmas stuff now haunts me with a convicting realization. In our modern celebration of Christmas, we forget that the real importance of the Christmas story is that it must be recycled — told again and again, passed along as a gift to others, re-bundled, re-labeled, and shared with everyone we meet on every day of the year.

We use Christmas to lock Jesus into a little slot.
Like so many other policies and procedures in our compartmentalized world, we use Christmas to lock Jesus and his call on our lives into a nice little slot during the holiday season. (We even sit idly by as even this little compartment is stripped of all of its Christ focus and becomes a time for the politically correct police to excise a bit more of godliness from our culture that wants to offend no one, except maybe Christians and Christ.) This holiday compartment is sweet, sentimental, and soft — all delight and no demand. In a world that has lost its ethical axis, we desperately need more than a "holiday Jesus." So let's take all those Christmas sentiments and all those Christmas songs and all those Christmas joys and use them to let Jesus permeate all of our days — not just our holidays.

Yes, I know today is the day we take out our trash — boxes and bows and cards and leftover food and worn out batteries. Christmas is officially over on the holiday schedule when the day is over and our Monday holiday for Christmas is done. However, let's not let the birth of Jesus, the mysterious incarnation of God in human flesh, be put out with the garbage. Our world needs more than a "holiday Jesus." It needs Jesus to come alive every day in you and me!