Well, it’s Christmas Eve. After the build-up and the shopping and the parties, we’re down to it. Tomorrow is the Big Day™.
Of course, we still haven’t finished shopping (duh), but there’s no sense of urgency. The kids and I will go out and laugh at all the last-minute rookies frantically searching through the leftovers for an acceptable gift. (“Look! Toothpaste! Grandma loves toothpaste!”)
That’s because: A) We’re pros. I’ve been shopping on Christmas Eve for at least 20 years; and B) We know the Christmas Secret™.
The Christmas Secret™ is one which The Man™ doesn’t want you to know. In fact if everyone knew it, the American economy might not survive. It’s best that we keep it under wraps. Just between us. So, don’t go spreading this one around!
At first glance, it looks simple enough. But you need to read the sentence multiple times with varying emphasis to get the full meaning.
You. Yes, you. You are not burdened as the only person in the world that must find the perfect gift. You don’t have to carry around a butt-load of guilt about not getting a present for every fricking person in the entire world–much less the bestest one. Lighten up. Enjoy your family and friends. If they use a brightly packaged box to figure out how much they love you this year, screw ’em.
Give presents because you want to, or don’t bother. If I might get a bit religious here (oh no, wouldn’t want that on Christmas), our church’s philosophy on life is much the same as my philosophy on Christmas presents. God forgave all your sins a long time ago. You don’t have to sit around beating yourself up over all the bad stuff you’ve done. You don’t have to figure out how good you need to be to make up for it. God doesn’t expect a anything out of you. You do good as a response to that grace–a happy dance of thankfulness–because you wanna, not because you gotta. On a smaller scale, it’s the same with Christmas presents. Give them out of thankfulness to someone you love. Someone who truly loves you doesn’t expect a damned thing out of you.
The greatest gift I get each day is the chance to laugh with my family. Am I that greedy and mean-spirited to put the value of some toy above that? Are you? Of course not. Presents are one-shot expressions of joy. Some will be appreciated forever. Some will go straight into the back closet. Whether they are an expensive new video game or an ashtray made from Silly Putty, none of them will outshine the love behind them. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to find the perfect gift. Just don’t give yourself a heart attack or get yourself into a car wreck over it. You’ll be taking away something far more precious than whatever you might have bought.
This is another thing I don’t get. How did we come to the place where all of our focus on giving and celebrating love occurs on one fricking day? A day that was pulled out of a hat by a Pope over a thousand years ago, because he wanted to find a way to convert pagans but still let them have the mid-winter festival they were already celebrating? Yes, we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus by giving each other presents on his supposed birthday. But if all you do is focus on one day, you miss the point entirely.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”
And chill the hell out, ok?