Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Looking for a warm Christmas message? Then don't read this

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It's Christmas eve and I'm exhausted.

I have decorated inside and out. 

I have shopped and shopped and then wondered if I forgot anyone. 

I have spent too much money. I have shrugged when my husband said it wasn't enough and then laughed when he blanched at the resulting register receipt. (What can I say, he's a generous guy :) 

I have wrapped and wrapped. And wrapped some more. 

I have vacuumed needles. I have hosted dinner. I have washed dishes.  

I have arranged sitters for the dogs and had them groomed (the dogs, not the sitters) so they won't stink up my in-law's house. 

I have negotiated schedules and commiserated with others who also have too many places to be in too little time. 

And I still feel like I haven't done enough.

So now it's Christmas eve. It's pouring and nasty outside. 

Am I finally enjoying it all? Am I sitting on the couch in front of the fire watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and sipping cocoa with the glow of the lighted tree behind me?

No, I'm sitting at work in a concrete building with two computers and fluorescent lighting and a couple of guys who relied on me to open the office today. 

But I'm not complaining.

It's peaceful here. It's quiet. I'm getting some work done before the holidays. (Well, not right this second, but think of this as my non-smoke break....) I have coffee with eggnog in my thermos. (Yes, I am a woman who carries a thermos. Of coffee. With eggnog. It rocks.)

Here, no one is asking me any questions. There is nothing for me to cook, nothing for me to clean, nothing for me to wrap. No one expects anything except for me to sit quietly at my desk and do my job and crack an occasional joke. And I'm thankful to have a job. 

There was a time when I couldn't imagine working on Christmas eve. Christmas was my favorite holiday. I was like a female version of Will Ferrell in Elf. Christmas was sweet and swirly and fluffy. It was magical.

Then I realized it isn't so sweet or magical for a lot of people.

A lot of people have no families or homes or presents or food. A lot of people have nowhere to go. A lot of people have no idea what peace or goodwill even mean.  

For a lot of people, Christmas is a time when they have to work extra hours to sell stuff to people who want things fast, cheap and convenient and who aren't really all that concerned how that happens or who has to sacrifice for it.

For even more people, Christmas is not a holiday, just a picture on a package of lights or ornaments or decorations that they have spent 12 hours working to make while being paid slave wages in a foreign country. (I often wonder what they think of Americans/Christians as they make the crap we buy for cheap in our stores.)

And for a few people, Christmas is not a holiday either, just an opportunity to sit fat and happy while they make money on the backs of the rest of us.

Let's just agree that - for most people in the world, even many Americans/Christians - Jesus is definitely not the reason for the season. Even if their bumper stickers say it is. Putting up manger scenes and singing "Silent Night" doesn't make it so.

But maybe giving does.

The Bible doesn't spend a whole lot of time talking about the birth of the man named Jesus. Only two gospels include it in the narrative. The early church didn't celebrate it much if at all.

But they did celebrate giving. Giving what they had to the poor. Sharing their possessions. Taking care of the widows and orphans. Touching sick people to bring about healing. Visiting prisoners. Paying other people's debts, the way Christians believe God gave himself to pay ours.

This video is Christmas to me. It wasn't meant to be. There is no tinsel, no manger scene. There's no mention of a divine being. It isn't even in English. (What?!?) But the spirit of this story - like millions of others around the world - reminds me of why we celebrate what we call Christmas.

Paying someone else's debt and giving them a little of what you have can make all the difference in the world. All. The. Difference. In. The. World., And - surprise, surprise - that concept crosses boundaries and faiths and cultures.

You don't have to be a Christian to enjoy a season of giving, to think that doing good for other people is something worth celebrating any time of year.

But if you ARE a Christian and Christmas is your holiday, then you should darned well act like giving - real giving - is the very center of what Christmas is all about. It's the only way that Christmas is good news. Otherwise, to quote "Miracle on 34th Street," Jesus is just a nice man with whiskers and this holiday is just a shiny excuse to overeat and spend too much money.

Speaking of giving a little what you have, even that can be tricky. Poor Little Drummer Boy...

Have a safe and happy Christmas <3

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