When the subject is Christmas, one is expected to hold forth on themes such as celebrating new births, giving gifts, establishing peace and spreading love. Well, I don’t plan to do that here. Instead, I want to talk about taking, conflict, hate and death. But if you’ll stick with me for a few paragraphs, I think you’ll discover that these are worthy topics for talking about Christmas.
My dictionary defines the word “taking” as “the act of a person or thing that takes.” Since so many gifts are given for Christmas, shouldn’t we spend a little time thinking about how they are taken . . . how they are received or accepted? There was once a commercial on television, for example, where a family received knitted items from a kindly older lady that we can easily assume is a grandmother. Unfortunately, the garments which she presents as sweaters are very seriously flawed, with missing or too-long sleeves, and even one with an absent neck opening.
We last see Granny smiling before the commercial ends, but you might imagine that she will either wind up with hurt feelings or as a victim of needlessly patronizing attitudes marked by faked gratitude. All things being the same, a better way to take the sweaters might be to sincerely thank her for the effort, but to gently point out the flaws and suggest remedies for them. The spirit with which we take what life brings our way is as important as the spirit in which it is given.
Basically, the point of that commercial, by the way, is to try to minimize the disappointment that sometimes accompanies gift-giving and gift-taking by choosing a gift that has an excellent chance of being appreciated by most people. But here is where we can remember that conflict is not necessarily such a bad thing. If what we expect or anticipate doesn’t match up with what we receive, for example, maybe that will help us to learn to be less expectant. We might even experience the miracle of learning to be more appreciative of not only what we are given, but what we already possess. That would be a very special miracle, indeed, in a season sometimes marked by excesses of materialism.
Let’s remember, too, that almost nothing lasts forever; but even things that do are often merely a shadow of their former selves (like the Parthenon) or stuff we don’t really want around (like nuclear waste.) So, expect some of those toys to break, some of those mechanical or electronic items to stop working, and other goods to be lost forever. Most things that are born eventually die –including gifts that are born into new ownership on Christmas day and other days during the season.
Finally, there is at least one thing that you can choose to hate on Christmas . . . in the sense that hate means “to dislike intensely or passionately.” I encourage you to hate the fact that while many of us are inundated with various gifts at this time of the year, there are so many others who expect nothing, who get nothing, and who give nothing, because they have nothing, and those who love them have nothing either. And these people could be us if it were not for certain serendipitous circumstances.
My family hates to see people with nothing. That’s why we step up our giving to the have-nots a few more notches during this season. Please join us as we respond to this particular inner hate, take gifts more consciously, de-emphasize the inevitable conflict caused by differences, and celebrate all the precious gifts of life because we know that deaths are inevitable.