Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Spirit?

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year, hands down. Many people would agree with that statement. But the true meaning of Christmas has been lost to a consumer-mad society that cares more about what sales are going on and what's the hottest toy out, than what really matters (and possibly going broke while doing that).

Most everyone knows we celebrate Christmas because it's a symbolic day for celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Giving gifts just makes it that much better. The wise men brought the best of the best before the feet of baby Jesus. He was given incense, gold, and myrhh. We give gifts to show our love to those closest to us. Personally, I love seeing people open their gifts; it brings me great joy.

Last week, I went Christmas shopping with my mom at Macy's. As we were paying, we were conversing with the employee regarding Christmastime. She was explaining how every year she needs to stash away extra non-gender gifts just in case she forgot someone. How true is that, but how sad that it's come to that. I was agreeing with her as we discussed how sad it is that you worry your gift won't cost as much as someone else's, or that the other person may not like their gift from you...etc.

Why has Christmas come to this??? Giving is supposed to be out of the kindness of your heart, not a competition of who can get or give better gifts. Especially in a tight financial economy, some people can't afford to get every single person on their "list" a gift this year. But there is so much pressure all around to do so.

If I want to give a gift to someone, there should never be an expectancy of receiving one in return, because then you're not giving with the right heart. For that, just get yourself a gift. You know yourself better anyways.

I've been reading a few articles on Christmas and here are some excerpts that stuck out to me:

"But to a growing group of Christians, this focus on the commercial aspect of Christmas is itself the greatest threat to one of Christianity's holiest days. "It's the shopping, the going into debt, the worrying that if I don't spend enough money, someone will think I don't love them," says Portland pastor Rick McKinley. "Christians get all bent out of shape over the fact that someone didn't say 'Merry Christmas' when I walked into the store. But why are we expecting the store to tell our story? That's just ridiculous."

I agree with Rick. My mom is one of those that gets upset when someone tells her Happy Holidays, but many companies don't permit their employees to say anything else. However, if you're the first to say Merry Christmas, I have found that most people reply with the same.

"It's not easy, says one youth pastor whose church is part of the Advent Conspiracy. "When you start jacking with people's idea of what Christmas is and you start to go against this $450 billion machine of materialism and consumerism, it really messes with people," he explains. "It takes a lot of patience to say there's a different way - Christmas doesn't have to be like this."

"I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your mother was wrong: It doesn't matter one bit if you were naughty or nice all year. Chances are, at some point in your marriage or relationship, your partner is going to give you a bad gift. And although it might not be quite as traumatic as the time you asked Santa for a Nintendo set and got a Boggle game instead, it's still going to sting.
It's one of the holiday season's unexpected traps: Just at the time of year when we're trying hard to be on our best behavior, the wrong gift can strain our marriage bonds." (The Gift That Needs Forgiving by Elizabeth Bernstein).

"Women tend to care more about gifts. They shop more, and think more about them. They attach more emotion to them. And they can be more demanding and less direct. (If I ask my husband what he wants for the holidays, he will say "nothing" and mean it. If he asks me, I will say "nothing," as well. And God help him if he believes me.)"

"Tom Valentino, who grew up in a large Italian-American family, blames his upbringing. In his parents' house, Christmas was all about religious values—and food. Gifts were an afterthought."

And this is a bad thing why? Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to tell you I love receiving gifts. But when the forefront of all our thoughts are making sure the right gifts are being purchased, I just see something wrong with the picture.

Let me reiterate, I am by no means against gift-giving. I'm completely for it. I'm against the enormous pressure to make sure you give the "perfect" gift or "we're in a fight" mentality. That last article was hilarious to read but at the same time, the motives for gift giving were incorrect. It was by obligation and not love. When someone really wants to get someone a gift (and not because society is telling them too), they'll try their best to be detailed. And whatever they give should be received with love. Because they didn't have to do anything...they wanted to.

I hope we treat this time of year the way it was intended: to celebrate the birth of the Savior born over 2,000 years ago and to bring joy to people's lives (whether it be through gifts or not).
Merry Christmas!!!

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