Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

I don’t know about you, but this holiday season, which I have purposefully trimmed of excess activities, is still too busy, stressful and filled with physical and mental running around. I have bravely said No to kind invitations to socialize. I have shrugged off the vague obligations, recognizing that I don’t owe anyone an excuse for why I choose not to do something. Shouldn’t “I don’t want to” and “I’m going to be busy keeping myself company” be sufficient reasons to avoid unwanted activities?
I had to go into town (Boulder, population 300,000) today for an appointment. The choking traffic around road work as I approached my appointment made me late. (Okay, so I should have left earlier. I admit that I always underestimate the time needed to get anywhere. I’m an optimist!) The frenetic dueling cars vying for parking spaces had nothing over the dueling cars vying to get out of the parking lot. Turning left was going to be a long wait for those of us sitting at Stop signs. I prayed fervently for no fender benders for all those in this and every other parking lot today and the rest of this holiday week.
Now that my grandchildren are older at ages 6, 9 and 11, their parents have helped to shift the focus away from Christmas presents and towards doing things for others. So, from a grandma’s point of view, there isn’t a lot to do in terms of “making Christmas” for kids. For that, I am thankful. We told the family that we weren’t doing presents this year, and we’ve increased our gifts to organizations that are helping victims of disasters, both the ones originating from natural and human causes. We’ve opted for a dinner theater experience for everyone, and we’re celebrating our son’s birthday on the 22nd with a lunch get-together. We’re foregoing our annual orgy of excess this year and, we hope, every year hereafter.
My girlfriend had a wonderful idea yesterday. She was remarking on how so many stores instruct their checkout clerks to tell their customers the amount they’ve saved by shopping there. She pointed out that unless she does something different with those savings, like sharing them with others who need help, the savings feel selfish. Her comments gave me pause. Just think of how much additional charitable giving there could be if we each donated those savings instead of pocketing them.
The religious significance of Christmas is the incarnation of God as human. Incarnation is important. From a human perspective, incarnation makes things real, including, in a sense, making God real as a human experience or knowledge of God. Incarnation validates us, as humans, as being important and significant to God. We may be puny humans, but God values us and loves us, just as we are, right where we happen to be, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, however lovable or unlovable we turn out.
I think my girlfriend’s idea of intentionally sharing those store savings is about making our charitable impulses incarnational. It’s not enough to think about sharing with those in need. We’ve got to make it happen, for real, by writing the check and giving the cash. Now, that would feel like Christmas.

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