The Gift of Christmas
By Eric Niewoehner
Several years ago I tripped upon a website called the Advent Conspiracy. How relieved I was that I was not the Grinch or Scrooge when I had questioned the mindless debt-driven spasm of materialism that is associated with Christmas. Since then I have pursued the cause of rediscovering Christmas by writing essays and developing a website to present them. This year, distracted by traveling and the ongoing challenges of computer vision syndrome, I backed off from the computer and left the Advent Conspiracy to itself.
I think we are turning the corner.
Throughout the Christmas season (Which if you haven’t been tracking, begins about one week before Halloween!) I have seen some hints that people are getting the message. Foremost, Walmart and others decided to let their employees celebrate Thanksgiving at home. I read over some articles commenting on the decline of traffic on Black Friday. That was encouraging.
But today (two days before Christmas) was inspiring! As is my habit when I get onto the computer on the weekends, I brought up my usual string of news and sports sites, along with Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Killer Sudoku. There it was, on Fox News, the first of four featured news items:
- Why I don’t give Christmas gifts
- Don’t let Christmas destroy you (it’s really hard to fake happiness for a whole month)
It reminded me that this is a fight worth fighting. I encourage you to browse through my patch of essays on the Advent Conspiracy. Yet every year is a personal story of what this Christmas season is about.
Being gracious — you can’t be everything to everybody and neither should you expect others to do the impossible. I am thousands of miles from many in my family. If I could, I would hop onto a private jet and fly to Missouri or the Caribbean to join family members. And let’s not forget the stop-offs for the wife’s side of the family, whether it be Florida or Minnesota. Being with family is a precious gift — cherish it.
To those who have everything (like my mother once told me), give on their behalf to charity. This day I will be giving contributions through World Vision, the gift of clean water, lambs and goats, care for exploited children and education.
Open your home — the greatest gift is hospitality. Show it not only to friends, but your neighbors. I could write an entirely new essay on “neighbors.” Unlike friends, we don’t choose our neighbors. We should not underestimate the power of hospitality. When we moved to Alaska we were surprised of the lasting impact of our relationships with neighbors back in Missouri and much of that was based on hospitality.
Keep Christmas within your means. Jesus did not come so that we would spend the next four months paying off debts. It is interesting that Jesus actually addressed the issue of “false generosity.” It is the psychological need to give others the impression that you are a generous person. I have seen colleagues pass out over a hundred dollars in “favors” to office mates. I did that one year myself (in a universe far, far away). I believe that was the turning point for me. I started making brownies or simply buying a carton of chocolates.
As a parting comment — CHRISTMAS IS 12 DAYS!! Please note — it was a originally a season of celebrating, extending from Christmas Day to Epiphany. That is where the twelve days came from. In those twelve days you can give modestly, open your home to others, visit friends and celebrate the greatest gifts of all: love, faith and hope.
Eric Niewoehner is a full time enterprise performance analyst and has a love of writing. You can learn more about what he has written at www.ericn.pub.