As I write this, it’s a couple hours into “Cyber Monday,” the great on-line shop-a-looza that follows Black Friday and (something new this year!) Black Saturday…you know, your last chance to shave a few bucks off the perfect gifts for your loved ones, office mates, classmates and teachers…whomever among your circle of acquaintances needs “gifting”…until the next last chance to save money on the perfect gifts for the holidays.
Yes, THE HOLIDAYS are officially here, and outside of shopping, you know what that means—spreading love and cheer and goodwill to all. It means activities like baking cookies, participating in gift exchanges and “giving” trees, dropping a few dollars into the red buckets outside stores, and of course pepper-spraying the person ahead of you in line so you can ensure you’ll get your hands on the latest must-have toy, gizmo…whatever.
If you’re reading a touch of cynicism in my words this morning, you’d be right! And it’s not new either. It’s an affliction that strikes me every year about this time, and has ever since I saw a television commercial a few years back that claimed the holidays were “all about giving.” Well, not for me. For me “the holidays” means a four-week period set aside to await the celebration of a child’s birth, a birth that (to me) signifies hope for the world. But that message was long ago coopted by ad agencies and retailers and turned into a reason for people to line up outside of stores in the middle of the night and crush anyone who might impede their path to the sales racks.
Now, believe me, I love a deal as much as everyone else. I clip coupons, I subscribe to savings publications and newsletters, and I shop sales. I love buying gifts for my loved ones too, and I love watching their faces as they unwrap those gifts. But this year seems to be even nuttier than past years, with stores opening before the hours of Thanksgiving had fully ticked down. (Really? Do stores really need to open up so early that their employees have to push themselves off the couch, where they might be relaxing with family and loved ones, to go ring up sales for people who can’t wait for the next day?) I almost wish I could turn that clock ahead to when the feeding frenzy of shopping and “deals” has passed. Almost.
I hesitate because if I skip the craziness of the shopping season, I have to also skip the joy and wonder that is Christmas. I’ll have to skip some of my favorite things to do. Things like putting up decorations that my husband and I have collected over the years, trinkets and mementos of our children’s growing years, and even a few from our own childhood, instant and treasured memories of friends and family, some of whom are long gone. It would mean missing singing along with favorite Christmas carols on the radio (my voice on full volume and my windows rolled fully up!), and trips to the nursery in search of the perfect Christmas tree. (Okay, I wouldn’t mind skipping the annual ritual of untangling the lights, but sometimes you have to take the bad with the good!) I’d have to miss out on special parties with friends from work and special worship music at church. And I’d have to miss reading those beloved scripture passages that tell of that baby’s birth.
I know some don’t want to hear or read this. Some want to continue to tell themselves Christmas is all about “giving,” and finding the perfect gift for their children, loved ones and co-workers. After all, didn’t the Wise Men bring gifts to the Christ child? I know too that people who don’t celebrate Christmas enjoy “the holidays” as well, and I’m glad for that. I’m glad that there’s a season where we at least pretend to really care about each other. And I’m glad that the crazy people in the malls are the exception, not the rule.
So my hope for you, and for me, as we’re scouring the on-line deals on this Great Cyber Monday, or out among the throngs pushing their way through the malls, that each of us will catch a glimpse of, and maybe share, the spirit of Christmas. I hope that we can tamp down on our natural impatience as we wait on hold for the next customer service agent, or fight mall traffic, and maybe even let someone else have that parking space near the door. I hope we can smile at each other as we we’re standing in long lines at the register. And I hope, as we subconsciously process the commercial messages of these next four weeks, that we can shed the stress of too much shopping, too much baking and too many people on our “must buy for” lists and hang on to that sense of joy and anticipation that the angels sang about more than two thousand years ago.
Happy “holidays,” everyone.