I hosted a white elephant exchange a few weeks ago. One of my friends who attended, Nancy, told me that, on the way to the party, she’d had a conversation with her little 8-year-old girl to prepare her for the event.
“Now remember,” she said, “you might not end up getting what you want. Your favorite gift might get stolen, and that’s ok. We’re not going to get upset or pout, because that’s not the point of the event. We just want to enjoy being with our friends.”
I don’t know if the message got through to the little girl, but it sure hit home for me.
I’ve always been struck by the irony of the Christmas season.
Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” a time of goodwill, joy, and generosity. Far more often, however, it is actually the most stressful time of the year. People max out their credit cards buying way more gifts than they can afford. They stress about money and how to find the time to make it to all of the Christmas events. Depression rates skyrocket.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like we’re doing Christmas wrong.
Towards the end of the night, my white elephant gift, a little shower speaker, was stolen. I admit, I was bummed at first. I had really been looking forward to using it! But then Nancy’s little pep talk came back into my mind, and I was reminded of how much I loved the people sitting around me, how glad I was that they had chosen to spend their evening with me. If I really wanted one, I could go out and buy another shower speaker tomorrow. I couldn’t go out and buy new friends.
Of the two, I still had the more valuable gift by far.
I think Nancy was onto something.
Somehow we’ve managed to lose the entire spirit of the Christmas season. We still go through the motions, but our hearts are far from it. It’s like saying your wedding vows while sitting on the couch watching TV. Christmas isn’t about how many wonderful gifts you get, or even how many wonderful gifts you give. It’s about remembering and rejoicing over the coming of Jesus.
Hopefully, there is also a liberal amount of time spent with friends and family; but at the end of the day, Christmas should be a season of celebration, not stress.
How much celebrating have you done this year?
I don’t mean how many parties have you gone to. I mean how much time have you spent reveling in the blessings you’ve been given, not stressing over how to fit something else into the budget or social calendar.
If the number is smaller than you’d like, not to worry! You still have time. As you’re celebrating Christmas this weekend, try to focus on the things worth celebrating. As Nancy said, you may not get exactly what you want…but that’s not really the point.