November 27, put up my Christmas tree. 4 weeks until Christmas Day.
For some reason, every year I seem to entertain different emotions, ideas, insights, or whatever you might call them.
A couple years ago, I really got into the themes of Advent, and lots of memories of Christmases past.
Last year, not nearly so prolific on the musings.
This year has its own unique flavor.
Since I’ve been contemplating Kingdom principles on many different levels for months now, and with the whole Occupy Wall Street movement stirring up a new awareness of the emptiness and greed of capitalism, I’m really not looking too positively at the whole Buy, Buy, Buy thing.
And then today as I was letting the nearness of Christmas waft around my mind, I had a revelation.
How long does it take to buy, wrap, mail, deliver, etc. the gifts? A fair amount of time.
How long does it take for the recipient to open them ? Mere moments.
And then it’s back to those things that Christmas really is about.
You wait forever it seems (at least it feels like forever when you are a kid) for that moment when you get to gather around the tree and open the gifts.
You wait weeks and weeks.
And in literally minutes it’s all over.
As a family, long ago we got in the habit of taking turns opening our gifts. That way we would actually get to watch each other open what we had bought for them.
But even then, it didn’t take 30 minutes for the party to come to a crashing end.
But the good thing is, for all of the $$$ spent on the gifts, Christmas is about so much more.
(And no, this isn’t a sermon about keeping Christ in Christmas. I may yet rain on that particular misguided and hypocritical parade, but not in this post.)
Whether you are a person of deep Christian faith or not, here are some of the things that make Christmas meaningful. Things that actually take up a lot more of your time and effort, and also end up meaning a lot more than the gift bags around the tree.
Food. I don’t think I have to explain this one. But Christmas dinner isn’t the only time food and special company figure in our celebrations. Between the work Christmas party, the eggnog with friends, baking cookies, or the special meals for kids home for Christmas, there are many, many special moments spent over a special meal.
Family. Sure, some of us aren’t quite so sure about the annual visit from Great Aunt Hildegarde, or maybe your Mom’s new ‘attachment’, but by and large, family is particularly important at Christmas. It’s one of those seasons when we usually think past the surface tension to the deep awareness that family is who will stick with you longer than anyone else.
The love within the family (at least some part of it!).
Love for your friends.
Love for the little kids that are a part of your life.
The love in giving gifts. And receiving them.
Loving good food, and good music, and beauty.
Lately I’ve been realizing that one of the greatest gifts that Jesus brought was the understanding that God isn’t some big, mean ogre.
If Jesus shows us what God is like, then God is the lovingest, mercifulest, kindest being you could ever, ever imagine.
And we get to experience that love, and pass it along.
Sure, a gift can demonstrate love.
But so can sharing a special time with a special friend over coffee and a cookie.
So can singing Christmas carols in the park with a gang of untrained, but exuberant voices.
So can sitting beside the tree with your dearly beloved.
So don’t get all hung up on the gift buying. Going into debt isn’t loving anyone except your bank, and they don’t tend to know how to deal much in the currency of love.
Instead of trying to fill everyone’s gift list, fill their love tank instead.
‘Cause really, they’ll spend a lot more time eating your baking and enjoying your company than they will opening your gift.