My family has been calling me Scrooge lately and is worried that I will ruin and cancel Christmas. I haven’t been meaning to feel this way or even act like a Scrooge. But there is some truth to their name-calling. I have been overwhelmed by how much we have. When I look around our house I have a hard time thinking of anything that any of us need or even anything that we really, really want that we don’t already have. My daughters’ Christmas lists aren’t crazy stuff. They both have items like gift cards and books that they want but then they have the same old toys that they don’t play with and we instead store in our home. This of course is a First-World Problem, “Oh poor you. You have too much stuff.” It seems completely ridiculous and I’m ashamed even to admit it. But it’s there. And I don’t like. But I don’t know what to do about it.
We don’t go over-board on Christmas. My kids typically only get three things from us, an idea I embraced a long time ago. “The baby Jesus got three gifts and so should we.” Of course those three gifts come from us. There’s always more stuff in the stockings and then all of the items they get from their grandparents and aunts and uncles. It’s all very good and it’s all very abundant.
This year feels particularly difficult for a number of reasons. I am more aware than ever of the number of people who lost so much over this past year. Too many people had their homes and their lives uprooted because of natural disasters. As I think of buying my children presents (that they don’t need) I remember the fact that in Puerto Rico only half of the island has electricity (as of November 20th). Something inside of me feels that this is all just very wrong. The expectations for Christmas have become so huge and even as a pastor who has raised her kids to know that the true meaning of Christmas is not the presents but the gift of the Christ child I still can’t escape it. Somehow I just want my kids to be able to see it too. I want them to look at all we have and be satisfied. I want them to know that it doesn’t matter if there is nothing underneath the tree on Christmas morning because we have been given so, so much. But if we did this, I would be the Scrooge that they already think I am. I would ruin their Christmas.
If I’m honest, I know that if I were my children I would feel the same way they do. I would have been horrified if my parents had suggested not getting presents. I too loved getting Christmas gifts as a child. I loved giving them and having the whole experience of unwrapping them and playing with them. So don’t worry, my kids will have their Christmas morning surprises. But I do know that I have to do something.
A couple of years ago Pastor Scott suggested that we give our kids money to give away and then share the experience with him. I know some of you did this with your own children or grandchildren. We have always tried to do more for charities at this time of year, but we didn’t take on that particular tradition. This year, Jeff and I decided this is exactly what we will do. Our girls will be receiving their own envelopes on Thanksgiving with an invitation to research where they will give this money, whom they will help, and how we can do this together.
I don’t know if this tradition will make a difference in my daughters lives or in my life, but I do believe it will make a difference somewhere in the world. Hopefully whatever money is given will be used to bring someone light, someone joy, someone peace. This is what Christmas is supposed to be about isn’t it?