November 23, 2004

A Gift that Counts

Let's talk about Christmas for a sec, hey? I mean, cause that would make a whole lot of sense, since it's only a few days before thanksgiving. Or not so much. But this is precisely my problem.

See, my wife and I were wandering the mall the other day (as I graciously emptied my wallet so she can have some - a lot of - new clothes) and I couldn't help but notice all the hideous decorations they put up. Again. And I found myself saying something that worried me:

"ya know, I hate the Christmas season."

If that's not a red flag for a Christian, I don't know what is. But the truth is that I've been saying that for years. When I said it she had a shocked expression and asked "why??" And it's funny, I'd only sort of tried to think about it before then. The only answer I could give her at the time was some mumbled response about hideous decorations and crowds.

But frankly, the real problem is consumerism. I wish that I didn't have to deal with secular society's mass mis-use of the Christmas season as a time for personal gain. The hideous decorations don't help much, but they're really just a hint at the real problem. The fact that we put them up before Thanksgiving in anticipation of "Black Friday" (one of the busiest days of the year in the public malls in America) is pathetic. I've even seen many places getting ready before halloween.

Now, I love getting presents as much as the next guy, and I even found myself doing my Christmas shopping really early this year. This is partially because I knew exactly what I wanted to get my wife, partially because I really wanted to impress her (before I knew she'd try to search our apartment trying to find it, but thank goodness I'd had it mailed to my parents' house), but mostly because I knew I'd never get what I wanted to get for her if I didn't do it early. People go out and buy so much stuff before Christmas - stuff for every member of the family, in large quantity - that nothing is left for those of us who are so busy with getting ready for the stuff the Church does on Christmas (and consequently can't shop for people until Dec. 24, and even then, if we get up at 8am).

This brings me to Christmas itself. Yes, I'm sick of the consumerism. This doesn't make gifts a terrible thing. I really like to give stuff to people. Like I said, I'm done shopping for my wife because I can't wait to give her a gift.

Or three.

I come from a swiss family. This does not necessarily mean that we really like swiss cheese, watches, and chocolate (though we do), but it does mean that we celebrate on Christmas eve. Remember Christmas eve? The night Jesus was born? I've never been one for traditions, but I love hearing my grandmother (or whoever is elected that year) reading the Christmas story.

My uncle has even come up with a fantastic tradition for opening presents. He too, was sick of consumerism, but didn't want that to detract from the spirit of giving. So instead of the mass chaos that happens so often when opening presents as a big family, he took his little unit of five (well, now four or six, depending on the year, since Josh got married) and they open presents one present at a time. This way everyone gets to appreciate the gift, and the person who gave it gets to really express what they meant by the gift.

Consequently, gift giving means more to them. It gets drawn out all day (they have other traditions on Christmas eve), but hey, isn't that a cool way to do it? Prolong the fun and make your gift mean more?


So this Christmas season, try to think about what matters. Two thousand years ago, God gave Himself to us to reclaim our world for Him: the ultimate gift. Draw it out a little. Or a lot! Make His gift to us count. Above all, remember that your gift back to Him can only try to match His gift - you'll have to give all of yourself. Believe me, it'll make His day.

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