All I want for Christmas is…
How would you answer this question? I know, I know, if we are asked this we all tend to give some noble answer. I want peace on earth goodwill to men. I want our troops to come home. I want to be able to end hunger. Or extreme poverty. Or everyone to have access to clean drinking water. Or… yah, yah, yah.
Sometimes we answer it sarcastically. I just some peace and quiet in this house for just one day. Is that too much to ask? I want him to finally remember our anniversary and do something nice for a change. (Don’t ask the impossible) I want my kids to get along with each other. (like I said…) I want my mother in law to not be able to make it to the Christmas reunion this year. I want crazy Uncle Jack at least to pretend to be sane this year. I want… blah, blah, blah.
Whether sanctimonious or sarcastic, these are the answers we tell, but not our real answers. What would we answer if we give if our real thoughts were blurted out? I’m not talking about the wish-fulfillment fantasies: “I want to keep getting the same paycheck without ever having to go to work again.” (Fight Club style) “I want to wake up and find my husband has the body he had twenty-five years ago.” I am talking about Christmas. This year. What do you want?
I am a pacer. When I pray, I walk. I can’t help it. I just do. I can’t sit still. So a couple decades back, I decided I would start mall walking during my prayer time. There was a mall on my way two and from work and they did open quite early for the mall walkers. There were about 25-30 mostly elderly retired folks who every day would do a few laps of this mall and then all congregate in the Arby’s for a social breakfast that lasted a good couple hours as different ones joined and left. I didn’t join in on this breakfast but I did plug in my headphones and join for a few laps every morning.
My intention during this time was to silently worship and pray as I made my way around the mall. At the time I had two roommates in my apartment so I didn’t really feel I could be as loud and as free as I wanted anyway so why not head to the mall for my prayer time. I soon realized this wasn’t a very good idea. As well-intentioned as my plan was, I found that at the mall I was constantly under a visual bombardment of greed that hindered my prayers. When I walked FYI I would think of what movies I’d like to buy. When I passed Dicks, I would think of how old my sneakers were becoming and how I should get a new prayer. When passing by lids… well, I own more hats than most women own shoes. Since I wasn’t making much money at that time (story of my life), this greed turned to envy and discontentment. I know how smart I am. I know how gifted I am. So why do I always seem to choose career opportunities high on service and effort but low on income? Ever been there?
Normally I am not a greedy person. Materialistic is probably the exact opposite of any word that anyone would use to describe me. This is true now, it was true then, and it has been true pretty much at every point in my life. I’ve never been one to put much value in things. I had a seven-year secret crush that finally turned into a first and last date. I say last because it was during this date that I realized how materialistic this beautiful, smart, kind young lady was. The moment I did, the attraction was gone. I’m not materialistic and I just don’t understand how anybody could be…
Except during Christmas. During the holiday season, we are all subjected to a visual and auditory bombardment of greed everywhere we turn. In the West, it actually starts sometime around Halloween, builds to a frenzied insanity on Black Friday, and then gradually tapers off sometime in early January. I hate it, but I understand it. Businesses need to make money. It would be foolish of them not to try and make the most of the sales opportunity that is Christmas. So how do we as individuals combat this corporate frenzy? I am reminded of the line to a children’s song, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see.” A couple decades back, I was able to escape this onslaught of materialism by simply going somewhere else. At Christmastime that isn’t possible. Even here in a country that is 99.8% Muslim, Christmas shopping and sales are a big deal.
Maybe there is another way to escape. I know quite a few people who have shopping apps on their phone. I don’t, but I would strongly recommend everyone uninstalling these for the rest of the month. Better yet, unplug your TV. That way, you won’t have to worry about the advertisements. Tune out the radio during your commute and play some Christmas music instead (Christmas playlists that don’t include songs like “Santa Baby”). Most importantly, especially over these next couple weeks, find moments of silence where you can be intentional about refocusing your heart and mind on what Christmas is really all about. Presents are a good thing but let’s not forget that the greatest present ever given came wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger. He is the greatest, the only thing we should really want this Christmas.