We decorate our houses with brightly colored lights and beautiful greenery. Christmas albums are pulled off the shelf, filling our homes, cars and offices with the sounds of the season.
Families get together for Christmas parties to share holiday spirits, cookies, fruit cakes and good cheer. Companies briefly put aside the bottom line to hold office parties where employees can bond beyond the project lists and whiteboards.
Shoppers invade the malls and stores, looking for that special gift for that special someone. The stores pack their shelves with new products and flood the market with newspaper inserts, coupons and incentives.
Television and radio ads interrupt our Christmas songs with daily specials, falling prices, the latest and greatest television or computer or telephone or music player…
Aaaarrrgggh! Stop! Enough already!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a closet Ebenezer itching to come out with a proclamation of “Bah, humbug.” I love Advent and the preparation for Christmas Day. But all this exposure to the media, marketing and merchandising of Christmas can be so overwhelming that we can forget the true meaning of the season.
To escape the constant barrage of Christmas commercialism, I try to create some time and space that is uniquely mine. No interruptions, no advertisements, very little noise to interrupt my thoughts and prayers.
Sometimes I turn the radio off in the car when I drive home from work, letting the quiet calm my spirit so that the day’s work can be tucked away and dealt with tomorrow.
Sometimes in the dark of the night, I take a walk down my street, looking at the stars. For a short time, it all melts away – family issues, friends, work, the media, the bills and holiday details. All that remains is me, standing on a big rock in space, looking for my God.
After a few moments alone, I hear him, already inside me. Into the quiet of my soul he speaks the truth about Christmas. My children, I love you so much that I will send you my son, who will live among you and show you the way to everlasting life.
This holy act of giving, from our Father to his children, is the true meaning of Christmas.
It is a truth that we should try to recreate in our own celebrations of Christmas. It’s not the gift that counts; it’s not even the thought that counts as much. It’s the act of giving that counts the most.
It’s the giving of our time, our money and our thoughtful gifts to family, friends and strangers that spread the spirit of Christmas throughout our community.
To inspire us during this season of giving, here are a couple of stories and films that convey this theme. Get away from the hustle and bustle to enjoy these classics.
White Christmas – In the closing scene of this film, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) give Major General Thomas Waverly (Dean Jagger) a Christmas to remember when they reunite their entire battalion at Waverly’s Vermont ski resort. Despite the expense of moving their show to the remote location and the inconvenience of traveling during the holidays, the former soldiers tell their former general how much they love him. They will always “follow the old man wherever he wants to go.”
The Gift of the Magi – This classic Christmas story describes the dear love between a young husband and wife. Della has beautiful long hair, so Jim wants to give her a pair of tortoise shell combs with jeweled rims. Jim carries an heirloom pocket watch that once belonged to his grandfather, so Della wants to give him a fob chain so that he can attach the watch to his vest.
Yet times are hard for the couple and money is tight. Della only has one dollar and eighty-seven cents to spend, so she sells her hair to get money for Jim’s gift. When he comes home that Christmas Eve and sees her short hair, she comforts him by saying “it will grow back.” She gives him the fob chain for his watch. Yet his watch is gone, sold to get money to buy her combs. They each sacrificed their prize possession to give a meaningful gift to each other.
The Giving Tree – “Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.” In this book by Shel Silverstein, the little boy plays around the tree all during his youth, which makes the tree very happy. As a teenager he needs money, so the tree gives him apples to sell. As a young man he needs a home, so the tree gives him her branches. As a middle-aged man he needs a boat, so the tree gives him her trunk. After each gift, the boy leaves the tree behind, which makes the tree sad.
Finally, as an old man, the boy returns to the tree, now just a stump. The boy only needs a quiet place to sit, which the tree is all too happy to give. Oh, to be such a tree, giving so unselfishly every day of our lives.
This is truly “the most wonderful time of the year” when we can share God’s love by giving to those around us.
May you and your family have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.
First published in the December 1, 2006 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2006 Christopher Fenoglio