The Walmart commercial that’s airing right now, calling for “a little more joy for Christmas” impresses me, not only because it dares to say Christmas instead of “the Holidays,” but because it is so happy and expectant.
Sure, Walmart is encouraging people to come to buy cheap, extraneous goo to fill our homes with material cheer… but it’s so fun! What impresses me is its light-heartedness.
It’s about giving…right?
I’ve been fighting the materialistic, greedy, stuff-driven secular Christmas spirit ever since I’ve been a parent, and maybe even before. I keep things simple and Christ-based at Christmastime. We put up the tree weeks after Thanksgiving and keep it up until Epiphany.
The Christmas music is religious, the tree is real, and the nativity is bigger than the Rudolph figurines. I have also de-emphasized, in my own mind, the importance of the gifts I will receive. After all, it’s not about stuff. It’s about giving, not receiving …right?
Is that right? Because I’ve come to realize that Christmas morning has lost some of its shine for me.
I don’t know about you, but somewhere along the line I seem to have decided that wanting gifts was a bad thing… especially expecting that the gifts I got would be great, like when I was a kid. There was so much to want back then! And let’s face it, if you really wanted something when you were a kid, you depended on Christmas to deliver it.
Then we got older, and what we wanted shifted to the practical. We asked for things we couldn’t afford ourselves, or bought it for ourselves and called it a Christmas present. The older we got, the less exciting and surprising our gifts were (think dad from “A Christmas Story” who gets a can of Turtle Wax and a bowling ball). If there is a surprise, it’s usually not a good one (think leg lamp).
What difference does it make what will be in the box?
I do remember, when I was very small, the wonderful feeling that something wonderful was coming. It was all about Santa, of course, but more than Santa bringing gifts was the happy thrill of knowing there was a Santa who brought them.
This thrill was best before I was old enough to have specific desires, and just looked forward to the wonderfulness of getting something. Little bitty kids don’t know they’re supposed to want bright colorful plastic things until we and the TV ads tell them so. Until they catch on, just about everything is delightful.
Here’s what I’m thinking…that state of not desiring the object, but desiring the receipt of the object was the most fun. Why not return to that? Here we adults are, in a state of not particularly needing or wanting anything we can’t get for ourselves, so what difference does it make what will be in the box? There will be a box! Even if there isn’t a box, there will still be a gift.
What a wonder
I was recently talking to a group of children about the excitement we feel about Christmas and presents and snow, and reminding them that as great as all that is, just imagine how really wonderful our risen life with the risen Christ will be when he returns. How Christmas will pale in comparison to heaven!
You’re probably thinking by now that I’m using the word “wonderful” too much, but really it’s the key.
What a wonder that we’re here, what a wonder that there’s a God of love who gave us such good gifts… love, joy, peace, hope, snow, Christmas trees, a little baby who surprisingly becomes the means of our salvation in a surprising and terrible but wonderful way.
So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. (John 16:23-24)
So here’s my plan: I’m going to let myself be light this Advent. I’m going to spend it looking forward to the gifts! When Christmas morning is finally here, I’m going to enjoy the moment of receiving that gift, and the moment of holding it and wondering what’s inside, and the “reveal.” I will be grateful for the people who are Santa for me this year, delivering gifts to my heart, preparing me for the ultimate gift that I have already received and will receive in all fullness soon.
How wonderful that there is a God who gives just because I really want it…want Him…so much.
(Janis Falk, Director of Religious Education, St Augustin Parish)