I realize Thanksgiving is still a week away, but I've found myself beginning to listen to Christmas music (and yes, I know there are a lot of people against this idea). I began shopping for items to go in a child's gift bag for a local outreach center. I went out on a limb and decorated my basement Christmas tree this morning, and this afternoon I went looking for Christmas cards (which was a challenge in itself to find some that actually had the words MERRY CHRISTMAS on them - I'm just not a HAPPY HOLIDAYS kind of gal). I'm absolutely NOT trying to rush through or skip over Thanksgiving, not by a long shot, but grasping onto a little 'early' Christmas spirit makes me feel good ... and for that I am THANKFUL.
I work at a local church and the last few days I've been actively working on an Advent newspaper of sorts. I won't give away the content, but it has some really good ideas about how to put Christ back into Christmas. Two of the things it suggests is to 'spend less', but 'give more'. I know what you're thinking, "How can that be?" "Isn't that like an oxymoron?" Not really. It suggests that perhaps we spend less financially, and what we do buy as gifts has more meaning. With all of the sales and promotions and intensive advertising being thrown at us it's difficult not to get sucked in, so the suggestion is to take baby steps. Buy one less gift this year. Don't buy the gift that you think you have to buy, the one that has no meaning behind it other than you feel obligated not to go somewhere empty-handed. To me that kind of gift has no heart and is completely unnecessary. More often than not, that gift ends up getting 're-gifted'.
To give more means giving more of yourself. You can't put a price on your time. Spending time with someone, making something for someone, baking your special cookies ... these are all things that come from your heart. They're special and have meaning.
I know a lot of people are anxious to get their new big screen TV, the latest technological gadget, or something that has a lot of sparkle ... but stop and ask yourself, "Will those THINGS make you happy?" A year from now or even 2 months from now will you still be as excited about them? Will those THINGS change or improve your life? I'm really not trying to get up on my soapbox and I'm really not trying to slow down any sales. Christmas sales can put a real boost in the economy. I just know, that for myself, I really feel the need to take a step back and gain some perspective. I'll admit that I enjoy shopping, especially during the holidays, BUT I also will look for the best deals and find a way to get the most thought out gifts. I'm hoping that the gifts I do purchase will have some special meaning and the person who gets them will be as excited about receiving them as I am in giving them.
So what does Christmas mean to you? Is it a special feeling you get when you stand under the mistletoe with that special someone, a renewed perspective you gain about what is really important in life, a second chance to regain direction and focus, a festive time with family and friends, or a traditional candlelit service in your church? Perhaps it's the best combination of all these things and more.
What will you do this Christmas to make it special and memorable?