Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Priceless Christmas

I’ve been watching a lot of television lately – must be the winter “veggies” settling in already. And so I’m also (unfortunately) watching a lot of advertisements. Now because of my situation I’m making a concerted effort not to let the avalanche of holiday commercials turn me into an emotional wreck (like they usually do). And because of this effort I’m not “feeling” the commercials, I’m just viewing them.

And I have to admit, once you remove the sentimental business, the ads are disturbing.

Now I know the economy has been just plain awful, and I’m certainly not against stimulating it…but I watched those news videos from Black Friday and I’m pretty sure that the woman who slugged her fellow shoppers in the face to get at the two dollar waffle iron wasn’t really doing much for the gross national product.

Shoppers were mashed, squished, stomped, elbowed, stampeded, shoved, pummeled and pepper-sprayed. People camped out in sub-zero temperatures to be the very first shopper in the door at 5:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. or midnight. Some people even abandoned Thanksgiving altogether to spend their family holiday on a quest for the best bargains available.

I know it’s a cliché to remind everyone about the real “reason for the season,” but I can’t help considering that phrase and what it really, really means…and comparing it to the event that started all of this.

Mary and Joseph were poor. I mean poor. And because of Mary’s pregnancy their trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem took longer than they had anticipated. When they got there they discovered every available space in every available lodging was already taken. They found room in a stable...with livestock.

(Imagine you’re headed for your alma mater’s homecoming weekend and you have car trouble…when you get to town the only place available is a garage. Nice, eh?)

I just have trouble envisioning Joseph sneaking out to Zales, while Mary was in labor, to get her the latest celebrity-designed diamond pendant. And I’m fairly certain that Mary, in between contractions, wasn’t frantically surfing the ‘net to find the best deal on Black & Decker’s latest super-saw for her hubby. (Although I’m sure Joseph could have put that present to good use.)

And the very first bed that the Savior and Redeemer of the world slept in was not an Ethan Allen cherry-wood crib with coordinating linens by Martha Stewart, with a Fisher-Price mobile hanging over it from Toys “R” Us and a hand-painted tree mural dotted with twinkle lights on the wall behind it. It was a feed box. Full of straw.

Even thinking along those lines seems ludicrous, doesn’t it? And yet all you hear about is finding “the perfect present for her,” or “the ideal gift for Dad,” or making sure your kids have the latest X-box game. As if the not finding of these things will make Christmas somehow less meaningful.

What is meaningful about Christmas is love. Plain and simple. Pure and unadorned. We celebrate at all because a Child was born to bring salvation to a world enslaved by sin. It was the supreme gift of love. And it changed the world forever.

Perhaps if we really thought about that…stopped to remember the why and wherefore of Christmas, there would be less pushing and shoving, less crass commercialism…more comfort and joy.

More love.

I’m not suggesting that anyone slap a “Boycott Retail” bumper sticker on their car or avoid the mall as if there really were zombies hiding in the food court. But I’m suggesting we remember that it’s not what’s in the box, all wrapped up in foil and ribbon and tinsel, that matters…it’s what is in the heart of the giver. And when we remember that, then the smallest gifts of love can have the most meaning…and Christmas will become again what it once was…what it was meant to be...