by Jeanne Krahn, Guest Blogger
This is going to be your greatest holiday season ever! You're all "hepped up"! Stuck in yet another sales line, you fidget for 20 minutes. Exasperated you sigh, "No time for this! Cookies to bake, cards to write, gifts to wrap, house to vacuum, 10 foot tree to trim, what do we feed guests coming early?"
On your mark, get set . . . Whoa! Is this what the holidays are all about? Whose birthday is it anyway? At this very time when Christians celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, our commercial society fires both barrels attacking our values and our very souls. Our consumer society has symbols with the power to fragment the meaning of our holidays. The groans and complaints of many who dread the holidays is sad. They seem to have pushed from their minds the true meaning of Christmas, of that special child in the Bethlehem manger. It was never His intention that we turn His birthday into a time of strain and pressure. Scrooge wasn't the only one to find Christmas disappointing and even depressing. How easy it is to fall into the competition of holiday activities.
STOP! Look inside and think about what the season means to you. We first must be conscious of what stresses us out and what enhances the meaning for us. If we look back in our lives the special times remembered are not about things but experiences with family and friends. Christmas is a love feast but it also can become a test of relationships. Old sibling competitions come anew. Seemingly everything is measured and because so much is emotionally invested in Christmas many have high performance anxiety. Who doesn't envision their families gathering as warm and congenial as a Norman Rockwell scene? Where is that great old fashioned idyll? Mostly in everyone's imagination, yet the emotional sustenance we are really seeking is attainable.
Years ago, the Lutheran Standard had some good ways you and I can help place Christ back in the Christmas manger:
1) Let Advent be Advent! Let it be a time to prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth through prayer, study and reflection. Let us not dwell on the pressure of trying to get everything done in order and let the holidays flow. People are more important than things.
2) Restore meaningful gift giving practices. Find creative ways to gift each other that are personal, more simple, more homemade, more thoughtful and considerate of the earth's resources and people. Don't give a gift that doesn't reflect your values! You do not purchase love and friendship with lavish spending. If you don't like commercialism, then don't join the very forces you find disturbing.
3) Touch the lives of the poor and needy. In our own area there are so many places to help, give gifts and food, volunteer your time, etc. Make your advocacy a year round program. Rechannel 25% of your gift-giving dollars to people who really need it this year. Offer presents that will continue Christ's work. Try to shop at the many stores now who give continually a percentage of their profits for social concerns, justice and cultural survival programs, nature conservancy, etc. I know it's difficult to shift your focus from what you want for Christmas to what God wants - not just during Advent and Christmas but throughout the whole year, but try.
Remember, the holidays will never let you down, only you let yourself down. The responsibility is yours. This is a great time of year. I try, I tire, I cry but I love it: A holiday of joy, love, peace and happiness; Angel voices proclaiming, "Peace on earth, good will toward all." Listen! It's not difficult to hear and feel, really, if we just remember that Christmas is all about faith, love, wonder and miracles - things that can only be understood by the heart.
Have a merry heartfelt one!