So … here we go again! With Thanksgiving and Black Friday behind us there are no more excuses. The Christmas season is upon us and we’re already tired! Worse, memories of past seasons have us secretly wishing we’d actually planned that December trip to Hawaii. But this year can be different if we’ll just take the reins and use Christmas rather than, once again, allowing the season to use and abuse us. That’s what I call “ethical Christmasing.” Here are a few thoughts on making the season work for us in a way that aligns with our best self.
1) Prize people over presents. One of the biggest challenges of the season is gift giving, especially if you have many to shop for, and do most of the family buying yourself. I can see you already. You’ve made lists for everyone, and lists of lists including stores and sizes. Or maybe you’re way behind in your list making, and that is just adding more stress.
Here’s the deal. Make this Christmas about the people more than the presents. Reach out and reconnect with some distant friends. A phone conversation may be the best gift they get. And plan some family time without media distractions so you can recover the meaning of conversation, laughter and love.
Most of all, when you are shopping, think “thoughtful” rather than “expensive.” After all, we already have the stuff we need. What we would truly enjoy is a thoughtful, care-filled gift that says you knew just what would speak love to us.
2) Take time to drink. OK, so wow, I have your attention now! Obviously, most of you don’t need any more encouragement in that arena. I’m talking about taking time to “drink” in the sights, sounds and rejuvenating energy of the season. The truth is, we’ve trudged through so many Decembers that familiarity has actually bred contempt. Fight it off, and you’ll rediscover some genuine joy.
Take the family out for a drive and enjoy some of the brilliantly lit homes in our valley. And if you want the best time, include some young children. Find time to take in a holiday concert at your local church (I know a good one!) or school. I suspect hearing some old carols and new holiday tunes will help refocus your heart and mind on the right things, for the right reasons. Watch a sappy Christmas movie, or host a carol sing in your home. C’mon Scrooge… give up the long face and make Christmas work for you.
3) Give some time and money to those in need. Look around and you’ll see plenty of opportunities to live beyond yourself and help others find some joy. Statistically, Los Angeles County leads the nation in people without shelter. Our local shelters – Bridge to Home and Family Promise – can always use extra provisions, money and helpers. Take your kids and serve a meal. You’ll bring smiles to many, and a dose of reality to your children.
But it isn’t just the homeless who are hurting. Chances are there is someone in your world who has recently lost their job, or been overcome by relational, financial or medical challenges. Reach out and lend a helping hand, but first fill it with some cash to make their life just a bit better.
The bottom line is we’re in this together. What ought to separate us from other societies in this world is our love and care for one another. If the freedom we enjoy is to resonate outside our borders it simply must produce better people inside them. And we’re the people who make the Santa Clarita Valley a great place to live. Let’s do our part to keep it that way.
So, fast forward to Dec. 30. How do you want to feel? Tired? Regretful over your Visa bill? Sad because you allowed the hustle of the season to steal away the hoped-for enjoyment? None of us want that.
The problem isn’t going to be that we didn’t have the resources or ability to make Christmas work for us. The question will be whether we have the will to do the right things, in the right way, to have the results we’ll smile about when it’s all over. So, let’s start now to make the weeks live up to our cheery greetings. Make it a Merry Christmas, and the happiest of holiday seasons!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.