In the spirit of "confess your sins one to another" (James 5:16), I have a confession to make. I don't like Christmas very much. My wife knows this. I suppose my family seriously suspects it. But I am not a "Christmas fan."
There is more than one reason. And there is, in some sense, no reasons. By that I mean that some of it is simply a gut-level dislike. I set aside that gut-level side or, better yet, call it "inspiration" because of the reasons I have.
I don't like gift-giving. Don't get me wrong. I like giving gifts. What I don't like is the extortion and entitlement that is Christmas. You see, in other instances I have the option to give or not. Those gifts are my idea. They're "from the heart". I try to give when it's not necessary to do so just so people can know I intended it. But at Christmas, there is no option. If you don't give gifts, you're a "Scrooge." Well, I don't want to be disliked, so I give gifts. I don't give them because the wise men gave gifts to Christ; I give them because I'm supposed to. I don't give gifts because the people who are near and dear to me can use them; I give them because I'm supposed to. To avoid being disliked, I give. That's extortion. And it's not cheap extortion. A local radio station is running an ad from a mortgage company that says, in essence, "Don't get stuck with all those credit card bills buying Christmas presents ... take out a second mortgage!" And because I give because I'm supposed to, the recipients are, often, ungrateful. Why? Because they're supposed to get a gift. They're entitled to a gift. So ... they get it, and that's that. Why be grateful? They simply received what they were owed. And, I have to say, that tie he got wasn't what he really had in mind. And, seriously, did you really think she would appreciate a new vacuum cleaner? And, come on, was that really all you could afford to spend on the oldest son? So, no thanks to me, there is no thanks to me. And, oh, hey, did you forget that your sister-in-law sent a nice gift basket last year? You had better get on the ball and send her something nice this year. Extortion and entitlement.
Now, to be fair, I don't like receiving gifts. You see, I'm quite contented. There is nothing I need that the Lord hasn't provided, and I can't think of anything I really want. So people who love me ask, "What do you want for Christmas?" and I can't think of a thing. It's not my fault. I'm content. So they'll give me stuff. Stuff I don't want or need. Stuff that it would never occur to me to buy. I appreciate the heart that goes into such things. I appreciate the love that they carry. But, I gotta tell ya, I hadn't the slightest thought of ever in my whole life buying a nose-hair clipper. I mean, thanks, really, but ... yuck! And why is it that new shirts are always in colors I won't wear or styles that I can't stomach or 4 sizes too small? (I mean, really, folks, I appreciate it that you don't see me as fat, but let's be real here.) And I end up one of those very same people I complained about just a paragraph ago, the ungrateful ones. I don't like receiving gifts.
I don't like Christmas decorations. Oh, don't misunderstand, I like seeing them ... well, some of them. That guy at the end of the block has overdone it a bit. But I just don't think that the benefit outweighs the cost. These things aren't cheap, you know. We are deforesting areas for trees to be cut down and thrown away in a month. We risk our lives climbing up ladders to hang lights on houses. We spend money on sparkling, twinkling, flashing, color-changing, shiny, moving things to hang about the yard and house. The electric bill for December rivals the summer months with the air conditioner fighting 100° heat. There are ribbons and bows and pretty paper to put around things that go under trees. There are stockings that no one can wear and wreaths of dead plants to hang. The work that goes into all this is only equalled by the work that goes into cleaning it up afterward. You will risk your life again to bring those lights down, defy physical laws wrapping up lights in the hopes of untangling them and using them next year, and fill three times the normal trash space with colorful paper, ribbons, and bows now devoid of the gifts they surrounded. You will need to put all this in places that won't be seen again until next year. Yeah, good luck with that. When it comes to cost comparison of time, money, and effort, I don't like Christmas decorations.
The biggest reason I don't like Christmas is the pointlessness. My daughter was born on Christmas. Several years ago, while she was a teenager, I gave her a cartoon of a little girl, sitting in her room, moping. "It sucks being born on Christmas," she says. Jesus, standing behind her, says, "Tell Me about it." You see, many of us give lipservice to "Jesus is the reason for the season," but we don't very often actually mean it. We often make little or no connection to the things that are "Christmas" and ... Christ. We might tell the Christmas story at our gathering of the day. We might have a Nativity on the lawn. We might even put up a "Jesus is the reason for the season" sign. But, let's face it, for the most part we leave Christ out of Christmas. He doesn't get our gifts like any normal birthday person would. He isn't central in our planning and decorating and all that goes into Christmas. He doesn't get our attention; friends, family, and the trappings of Christmas do.
I tried once to change all this. I gave it a shot. I suggested that we alter our entire approach. Let's not give gifts to one another. Instead, let's give gifts to Christ. Maybe we spend some time helping out at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. Maybe we give gifts to Christian organizations such as mission groups or the Salvation Army. But if the birthday being celebrated is Christ's, then shouldn't He get gifts instead of us? And how about if we don't decorate with the standard fare. Instead, let's try things that say, "We're celebrating Christ's birthday!" We could use the constant reminder ourselves. Or maybe we skip Christmas altogether? You know, the early Church never celebrated Christmas. And the Puritans who first settled this country believed it was wrong to celebrate Christmas. Maybe they were right? I had other suggestions, but you know none of this would fly. The kids, who didn't really appreciate the gifts they got, would appreciate "no gifts" even less. The message -- "Let's focus on Christ, not bright shiny lights and getting gifts" -- would be misinterpretted as "Dad doesn't want to buy us anything, and we all know he doesn't like Christmas anyway."
So, here I sit, my hat in my hand, confessing to you, my readers. I don't care much for Christmas at all. I apologize for that.