20 Dec The Christmas Lie
“Without a doubt, the greatest inheritance we can pass on to the kids we know and love is the truth about the lie. Not only that the ‘lie of Christmas’ is a lie, but that the ‘truth of Christmas’ is the truth.” Walt Mueller
My friend’s recent blog post http://www.pursuit7.blogspot.com/2011/12/navigating-traffic-at-mall-bumpy-camel.html coincided with and fueled my thinking of late.
Many of us would benefit from reflecting on the overabundance of wealth we face here in North America. Before you think I’m going to rant about our society at large while excluding myself, please understand that just last week I spent some of Lee’s hard-earned money to remodel our kitchen island, with a new countertop and barstools, just to open up some legroom in order for people to be able to actually sit at the counter. A want, not a need. An unnecessary expense. Something I wanted to make my life more complete. When I have company, they can now sit and chat over a glass of wine while I cook. This will happen whenever I have company, which is once every fifteen years, so it should pay off soon.
How often I tell myself: “As soon as I get that new counter (finish my degree, buy new shoes, organize the house, make it through the winter, whatever) my life will be one of ease and bliss?” Why do we think possessions and circumstances will change anything? Why don’t we learn that tomorrow brings more disappointment and more desires, if we’re focused on worldly pleasures?
We need not neglect day-to-day life, but should that be all we focus on? Upgrading our lives? What a horrible and empty existence.
I talked to a stranger at the library last week who said she is scaling down her Christmas shopping this year. Last year she spent $1,000 per child (she has three) on gifts! I am sure she was embarrassed by my shocked reaction – which came out in the form of a gasp, more like a snort (embarrassed myself with that one). But then I wonder, what would someone from Cambodia (or your third-world country of choice) think about the hundred bucks I spend per kid?
My kids do not need one more material possession. I worked the past two mornings cleaning the dears’ bedrooms to make way for their Christmas gifts. (Also because, of course, I figured my life would be perfect once their rooms were free of clutter. Whaa whaa whaa. Another letdown.). So, I threw away five (FIVE!) trash bags full of Happy Meal toys, pieces from games, Lego magazines, filled notebooks, smashed shells, broken silly bands, Japanese eraser pieces, empty nail polish bottles, dirty stuffed animals, dried-up markers, untouched coloring books, and on and on. Despicable on so many levels.
Don’t misjudge my Scrooge-ish heart. I find great joy in giving gifts. Emma is getting a dog named Cookie that she has been asking for since Thanksgiving when she first saw one of these cute little pups. (A toy, not a real dog.) She’s also getting slippers that match her unicorn pillow pet. These gifts have invaded my dreams, I’m so excited for them. (I also dream about walking through a desert while wearing a fur coat and swimming with sharks, so we won’t put too much weight on my dreams.) Is there anything in life quite as special as making our children smile?
But will Cookie and unicorn slippers get Emma through life? No. She may forget by next year what her gifts were this year. (Although with Emma, I doubt it. She remembers such things. Complicates my life.)
Do you have any recollection of a gift you received under the tree as a child? Most of us, if we’re lucky, can recall one or two. (I happen to not be one of those lucky people. Honestly, I cannot remember one single Christmas gift, though I got plenty. I do remember one birthday gift, but that’s because my sister got the same thing one year even though it wasn’t her birthday. I, being a horrid and selfish little monster, was mad at the injustice of sharing my attention with her. And since I know you’re wondering – a blue satin jacket. We were Very Cool. But I digress.)
One of my all-time favorite Christmas articles is “The Lie of Christmas” by Walt Mueller. I first saw it in the Lancaster newspaper in 2002ish. Then the next year I sought out permission to reprint it in Highway News and Good News when I was editor. Then one year, I emailed it to my pastor. Here I am, sharing it yet again.
Walt Mueller is the founder and president of CPYU (Center for Parent/Youth Understanding). If you made it through reading through this post, I apologize. I should have just let you read what Walt has to say. http://www.cpyu.org/Page.aspx?id=76876
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Merry Christmas.