The closer I get to Christmas the greater the pressure I place on myself to spend on friends and family. The craziness is beginning to steal the joyful anticipation I should be feeling right now. With each thought of gifts I have yet to purchase, I slip a little further away from celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and toward celebrating Santa Maggie. I move away from the giver of new life to the giver of temporary gain. This year I am trying to maintain a new budget and yet celebrate Christmas with my friends.
Christmas is a balancing act for most of us. We want to show our love for our children by the number and expense of gifts under the tree. We go to extremes to impress colleagues and friends with presents that show our respect and affection. Some will feel the tug on their hearts and be compelled to rescue that pet that they have avoided getting all year. And others of us may go totally in the other giving direction and spend everything we have on toys for faceless needy children
None of these are bad things if done for the right reason and if they model Jesus’ example of giving and the greater gift of forgiveness and love eternal that he gave us. Some of us, however, don’t have the cash flow to meet all our personal expenses let alone simple gifts for those closest to us. So how do we balance “the reason for the season” with the holiday season? One way is to stop and ask ourselves why we are doing what we are doing and if spending that money on that gift is the best way to show we care. What other ways are there to show our love for others this time of year? Do we have to do something before December 25th? Can we adopt a new way of giving that will stay with us in the year ahead? Can we start the New Year with a smile rather than a grimace about our new debt?
In our family we have adopted a 12 Days of Christmas strategy, especially with our friends. We start with some gifts under the tree December 25th for family and then find ways to celebrate Christmas with friends through Epiphany on January 6. It keeps the spirit of Christmas alive for more than a couple of hours on one day. This year we went to the grocery store and picked out $10 worth of food products for each of the food banks we support. We went to Arlington National Cemetery and laid wreaths in honor of our service men and women. I have met with other friends for a meal or a coffee and we invested in each other by listening to what is going on in our lives. These are rich moments of giving of ourselves and sharing our faith. This year we will be making cookies and spending time with other families instead of a gift exchange. On Christmas day, after our family time, we will get with friends to drive around and look at Christmas lights. I did that the other night with a dear friend and we laughed until we cried. I will carry these memories far longer than the gifts I gave that I can no longer remember who I got what for. And we have created a new pattern of giving and sharing time that we can continue long after Epiphany.
What ways can you balance the reason we as Christians celebrate Christmas with the commercial pressure to buy, buy, and buy more? What ways can you honor the birth of the one who came to die that we would be forgiven? How can you show others that gift of eternal love instead of the temporary monetary love? I would love to hear your ideas. It isn’t too early to start planning for Christmas 2015!! Share your ideas and I will consolidate them and remind people of them next year