I’m Really Trying To Love You

“Let all that you do be done in love.” ~1 Corinthians 16:14

There’s nothing like the Christmas season to test one’s capacity to love.

For example, I had to remember how much I love being American after driving by a Kmart store on Thanksgiving evening that was open for pre-Black Friday shopping.

I had to force myself to think loving thoughts toward a relative who sent an email list of gifts he’d like for Christmas, and ignore the fact that in it he didn’t ask what we wanted or even how we were doing.

I’ve had to work extra hard lately to love going to the gym (always a challenge regardless of the time of year), which unfortunately is located by a mall, because it’s now taking twice as long to get there due to holiday shopping traffic.

Finally, I have to try really hard to feel loving and generous about spending money I’d rather save to instead buy gifts for close to 20 people who don’t need them, for no other reason than it’s expected this time of year. Somehow Jesus’s birthday sparked a Spendandgimmepalooza in our culture. Or was it the advertisers who did that?

In all seriousness, the Christmas season can test our capacity to love in so many ways. For some of us, there are those dreaded family gatherings with relatives who know how to push our buttons, sadness over missing loved ones who are no longer with us, nostalgia over Christmas days long past.  Some of us feel empty, lonely, and left out during the season.

Corinthians says love is patient and kind, but how many of us are patient when waiting in long check out lines or in crawling mall traffic? How many of us are kind to salespeople in crowded stores or are ready to bully others for our right to the last gadget standing? We’ve all heard horror stories of Black Friday stampedes and deaths.

This Christmas season, I’m going to try hard to remember why the holiday exists, which is to celebrate the birth of Christ. I’m going to try and focus on the elements that give Christmas its magic – the beauty of lights, traditions, music and carols, the spirit of peace and childlike joy that pervades our hearts, if only we can slow down long enough to feel it.

When all else fails, there is always love.

Why I’m a Last Minute Christmas Shopper

The older I get, the more I understand why my grandmother started giving checks for Christmas gifts.

I hate Christmas shopping.

I hate traffic jams at the mall and stores torn up like an apocalypse hit.

I hate wandering aisles, sifting through piles of stuff in search of the perfect gift.

I hate hearing news stories about people getting into fights over the latest gadgets.

I hate spending my hard-earned money on crap that ends up broken or stuffed away.

I especially hate the rampant commercialism and greed that has taken over the Christmas season.

buy-less-this-Christmas-consumer-free-Christmas

Whew, that’s a lot of hating. Sorry about that.

To me, it just seems crazy that for a month or so each year the entire country goes on a massive buying binge. I’d blame it on the advertisers, but the truth, as I see it, is that Christmas has become an excuse for people of all ages to engage in large-scale self-indulgence disguised as giving.

I mean, you give, you expect to get back. Not all of us, but many. We want gifts, and not just on our birthdays.

I know — I’m such a Scrooge, but the insanity of it all, and the expectation by society that I must spend a small fortune unnecessarily once per year, really ticks me off. It’s one of the reasons why I started waiting until the last minute to do my Christmas shopping. Aside from enabling me to avoid the dreaded deed until absolutely necessary, there are benefits to waiting until the last minute.

Last minute shopping forces you to be efficient. You don’t have hours to waste strolling through store aisles, agonizing over finding the perfect gift. You go in, get a gift, and get out.

(I suppose online shopping is similar in this way, but I like to see in person and touch items before I buy them. It gives the act some semblance of meaning.)

Last minute shopping requires you to be creative and think outside of the box, as in big box stores. Since you know their merchandise is going to be picked over or gone, plus it’s generally cheap junk, you’re more apt to hit up local small businesses. That’s where you’ll find unique, more personalized gifts, many hand-crafted by local artisans. You also get to chat with the owners and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting local businesses.

You’re apt to spend less money when you shop last minute. It’s easier to lose track of spending when you’re doing it in smaller chunks over the course of several weeks or months. You’re also more likely to succumb to making unplanned last minute purchases as Christmas nears.

By contrast, when you wait until the last minute to do all of your shopping, you have a clearer sense of how much money you’re doling out. You’re more likely to rein in the spending if you see it going overboard. You can’t make unplanned last minute purchases because you’re out of time.

(Here’s an article I found that supports the theory that last-minute shoppers spend less: http://www.cio.com/article/2863173/online-marketing/why-last-minute-holiday-shoppers-are-worth-less-to-you.html)

Last minute shopping frees you up to enjoy the fun parts of Christmas. These might include trimming the tree, holiday lights, and gathering with family (well, not everyone finds this last part fun); watching movies like It’s a Wonderful Life; Charlie Brown’s Christmas, which turned 50 this year; seeing the delight on little one’s faces when they open their gifts from Santa; and listening to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas over and over because it reminds you of your grandmother, the one who wrote the checks.

Let us also remember the true meaning of Christmas, often forgotten in the buying frenzy: Jesus’s birthday. We can honor His spirit by spreading peace, love, and good will this holiday season. None of this costs a dime, but it’s needed far more in this world than the latest gadget.

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Merry Christmas!