Actually, it’s been sounding and looking a lot like Christmas for weeks if you’ve been in any mall or store. It wasn’t even Halloween and stores were stocking up on decorations, gifts and holiday foods.
In years gone by I would vow to avoid stores that were pushing Christmas on me when I wasn’t even ready for Thanksgiving. I frowned on those who put their tree up on Thanksgiving day and wondered why they felt the need to start so early. Why rush things?
I used to get very upset and think how terrible and commercialized the retail industry has made Christmas but I have since realized it’s really our own fault. We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking it just wouldn’t be Christmas unless there are tons of present under the tree, new holiday outfits and lots of food. We can’t wait for black Friday or cyber Monday. We rush all around trying to get the hottest toys and gifts for kids young and old. We cut people off in lines, we race for parking spaces, we drive like we’re possessed and for what? Do they really need the latest cell phone, TV, video game or sneakers?
Every year, we toss our budgets out the door and spend way more than we can afford, then spend the new year crying about our debt. And then, we vow to make the next Christmas one filled with meaning and love rather than presents only to fall right back into the trap.
Each year I say I’m going to cut back and each year I don’t. This year however will be different for many reasons but mainly because since losing my job money is tight, there is no room on the credit card to do any shopping, no money in the bank and no bills I can put off. I’m forced to find a way to experience Christmas without lots of presents and expendable cash. I have agonized over how I am going to give my family a nice Christmas. How will I be able to bless them? How will I give them a nice and joyful and meaningful Christmas?
I know this sounds strange, but I believe not having any money for gifts has made me appreciate things beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I’m not upset that stores are all decorated and the radio is playing Christmas music and the Hallmark channel shows Christmas movies all day. Rather than dampening my spirit it is lifting it. Rather than putting me in a sour mood, it’s giving me joy. For the first time EVER, I put up my outside decorations already and I’m about to begin inside. I can’t wait to bake cookies and make some homemade gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to shower my family and friends with gifts and I know there will be days when I will struggle with sadness, but I also know it is the peace of our Lord that will sustain me and enable me to make it through each day.
We are not the only family having trouble but with faith and hope we can all have a Christmas filled with lots of love and meaning. You can have everyone go through their closets and drawers and fill bags with clothes for your local shelter. Sponsor a child or a family in need. Go through your kitchen cabinets and fill a bag or two for your local food bank. When you’re out filling wish lists for your family, pick up an extra toy and donate it to Toys for Tots.
After you’ve done something for others in need, make sure you do something for your family. Plan an outing to somewhere you’ve never been before. Get everyone together for a family game night. Spend a day baking cookies. Plan a night of Christmas caroling followed by some hot chocolate and cookies. Rekindle a family tradition or start a new one. Instead of buying ornaments for your tree, make them! Read the story of the Nativity, take time to pray and thank God for all He has given you because I can promise you that no matter how bad you think you have it, somewhere, someone is worse off.
It may be looking a lot like Christmas everywhere you go, but does it feel like Christmas? Will Christmas come without all the packages? Yes it will! The question is will you be ready for it, I mean really ready? I know that through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I will be ready.