There was a remote monastery deep in the woods where the monks followed a rigid vow of silence. This vow could only be broken once a year on Christmas Day, by one monk, and the monk could speak only one sentence. One Christmas, Brother Thomas had his turn to speak and said, “I love the delightful mashed potatoes we have every year with the Christmas roast!” Then he sat down. Silence ensued for 364 days. The next December 25th, Brother Michael got his turn, rising on Christmas to say, “I think the mashed potatoes are lumpy and I don’t like them.” Once again, silence ensued for 364 days. The following Christmas, it was Brother Paul’s turn. He rose and said, “I am fed up with this constant bickering.”
We put too much pressure on Christmas, acting like Christmas has the last word, defines our families, defines our relationships, defines our lives. And we put our money where the pressure is. The average American estimates that she or he will spend $794 on Christmas gift-giving this year, pumping billions of dollars into the American economy. It makes you think that there WAS a war on Christmas and Amazon won. And it makes it easy to blame the retailers and the advertisers for all the pressure put on Christmas. Now we can sympathize with those Pilgrims who banned Christmas in 1699 for having “too much revelry.”
Perhaps now is a good time to remind ourselves that Christmas is really a “one-off” in our lives. It’s a bit of a show, a party, a rehearsal rather than the real thing. Christmas is a rehearsal for the important tasks of our real life. The point of Christmas is not the necktie you buy your father or the scarf you buy your mother or the toy that you buy your child. Giving that gift is just a rehearsal for the real thing, the real gifts others need from you – love and respect, forgiveness and affection; and, for the truly needy, clothing, food, and shelter.
In a “Peanuts” comic strip, Lucy and Charlie Brown are talking about the meaning of Christmas. Lucy says that Christmas is a time for kindness and good will; a time when we accept one another, welcoming others into our homes and into our lives. Charlie Brown responds by saying, “Why just at Christmas? Why can’t we be kind and accepting and hospitable all through the year?” Then Lucy looks at Charlie Brown and says, “What are you, some kind of religious fanatic?”
Your friend and fellow minister,
Rev. Steve Savides