Are you ready for Christmas?
This must be the most commonly asked question between Thanksgiving and December 25. Adults pose it to children to learn what they hope Santa will leave under the tree Christmas morning. And adults pose it to each other to see what sort of person you are: Are you a hustler with the gifts purchased (and wrapped) by December 1? Or are you a dawdler who shops on Christmas Eve?
Whatever the context for the question, being “ready” for Christmas is code for gathering up the stuff we give and dreaming of all we hope to receive. In this week’s Persuasion, “All I Want for Christmas,” Hannah and I discussed the role and weight of gifts in our celebrations, and I’ve been mulling that over ever since.
We could respond like Charlie Brown, with sighs and lament over Sally’s list for Santa:
Charlie Brown’s discouragement is directed toward the sense of entitlement for getting, as Sally says, “my fair share.” Here is where a “children’s” Christmas program cuts us to the core, no matter our age. It calls us to question our ability to justify our wants and wishes by classifying them as needs. We too want what is expected, the bare minimum level of affluence. All we want for Christmas is our fair share… but what is that, anyhow? Whatever it is, it’s usually more than what we already have, as we rarely measure the bare minimum by those who have less than we do.
From this hollow extreme it is easy to fling ourselves headlong to the other side by adopting a Grinch- or Scrooge-like attitude. We can gripe about consumerism and greed (even if only in the quiet of our hearts) and refuse to participate at all. (Or, as Hannah mentioned in the episode, the gift righteousness route gives gift recipients good feelings because you bought a cow or goat for the poor in their name, instead of buying them something off their wish list.) This is it’s own sort of greed though, the kind that stifles generosity and kindness in exchange for upholding a legalistic standard for who is most deserving of our gifts.
As with most things, the better way is down the middle, in the tension between the two extremes. Generosity and sacrifice for others is what the Messiah modeled for us. It seems fitting, as we celebrate His coming, that we walk in His footsteps and practice giving for the benefit and joy of others. Here in this tension, in the mushy middle, we have to sort out the difference between contributing to consumerism and stifling the joy of giving.
These are the thoughts that stir up in my mind whenever people ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?” The easy answer is no—I am usually not ready because I’m a dawdler when it comes to finishing shopping and wrapping gifts. But the more complicated answer is yes—I am ready for Christmas, because I am desperate for all that God willingly gave in the gift of Himself. I am desperate for my heart to be at rest in the abundance of Jesus. I am desperate for my heart to give everything so that others experience His abundance too.
Are you ready for Christmas too?