As an adult I’ve always appreciated Thanksgiving more than Christmas because of the commercialization that accompanies Christmas. For Christians, Christmas represents the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, but even for those of other religious persuasions, the reason for the season is peace, goodwill toward men.
There’s nothing wrong with buying gifts for Christmas. After all, who doesn’t enjoy both the giving and receiving of gifts? Unfortunately, it is tempting to overspend during the holiday season, often leading to serious consequences when the January credit card bill comes due. Believe it or not, I’ve experienced more than one Christmas morning when, after opening gift after gift, the eventual result is some spoiled kid crying! What a lousy way to spend a day.
This year, with the country in a recession, more people are out of work than usual. Many who are working are rightfully worried about the possibility of losing their jobs. The predictable result of this economic uncertainty is a reduction of spending this Christmas season. This means fewer material “gifts” and perhaps, more time to think about the real meaning of Christmas.
As I approach my sixtieth year, I’m trying to recall my most meaningful Christmases. I remember my brother and I waiting in the hallway as my father took what seemed like hours to set up four large floodlights that were necessary for the proper lighting of what was then a ”state of the art” movie camera. We still have those movies of the goofy looking 12 year old and his younger brother. I fondly remember a Christmas Eve when I read a biblical account of Christ’s birth to my son and his two cousins, when they were about seven years old. I also recall a midnight Christmas Mass in Mangalore, India. I remember the handsome men, accompanied by their women dressed in elegant, bright saris. The massive footprint of Catholicism never ceases to amaze me. In a country where only 3% of the population is Christian, there are thirty-million Catholics in India.
On a personal note, I know a young man and a young woman who will go together to Mass in that same Mangalore church this Christmas. Only God could have known that the little boy from North Dakota would someday fall in love with a beautiful little girl from India. The rickshaw driver, who parked under the banyan tree, couldn’t have guessed that the little girl he took home daily from Catholic primary school would someday leave India and travel to Minneapolis, where she would meet the handsome lad from a distant place called Fargo. It is upon these two incredible people and their families that my thoughts are especially focused this Christmas. I also remember my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who leave a place and “family” that have been very special to them and return to their native country after 13 years abroad.
With the economic slump, this Christmas may be different for many of us. Please accept my sincere hope that you’ll be blessed by the spirit of God more than ever this year. Pray for your families, pray for your spouse, pray for your friends, pray for our leaders, pray for our country and pray for the millions of people in this world who, despite your circumstances, would give anything to be in your shoes.