"'Tis the season to be jolly." Only if "jolly" stands for "Jostled, Overwhelmed, Late, Limp and Yesterday (when everything was supposed to be done!)."
It started Thanksgiving, remember? It seems just a little short of miraculous that so many people can cram into so many small stores (and spend so much money for so little merchandise). Whichever side of the sales counter we were on, we probably found our mood of thanks-giving quickly transformed into far less noble sentiments.
Of course, that's just the beginning. Sometime soon we've got to buy the rest of our Christmas gifts and wrap them; sign, address, stamp and mail Christmas cards; get a tree; decorate it; do the Christmas baking; clean the house; shop for the groceries; cook; and ... there are probably more "ands" than we have room for.
Of course, for most of us, this all comes on top of the regular frantic rush of job, family, church, recreation, etc. I get tired just thinking of it all.
When it comes right down to it, I'm not all that sure this is the way Christmas is best prepared for. If we are readying ourselves for a celebration of the birth of a man of peace; a person whom many of us turn to for purpose, meaning and the faith that is at the center of our lives; if we see this as a time to reaffirm and strengthen our ties and commitments to friends and family; it looks to me like we are going about all this in a rather strange way.
More often than not, the Christmas season seems anything but peaceful. The meaning, the faith that is the foundation of our celebration, usually succumbs to the demands of commercialization. Friends are hurried past and family becomes an arena in which to vent pent-up frustration as we frantically race toward our yuletide goals.
If this is a time to be enjoyed, even savored, it seems to me that we can't do that unless we slow down enough to notice what's going on. But how? Where do we start?
To open, let's ask ourselves what would really happen if we sent 25 cards this year rather than 125? You're right, the world probably wouldn't end, nor would that many people really even miss our card.
Or, which would be more appreciated by our family -- more gifts or more of our time? How about baking and cooking less and donating the money we save to a local food pantry for the poor? Instead of a frantic run through the local department store, let's consider a casual stroll through the park.
"I can't do that! Christmas just wouldn't be the same!"
You're right. But I'm betting what we will lose won't be the special meaning -- the joy -- of Christmas. We will avoid much of the stress that sometimes makes Christmas a time to be endured rather than enjoyed.
All in all, the difference will probably be a heightened sense of what Christmas is supposed to be all about: "Peace on Earth, good will toward (all)."
Take a piece of scratch paper and a pen. Now write down the sentence: "If I could change the way I get ready for Christmas, I would …" Under it, jot down words or phrases that complete the sentence for you. List as many as you can.
Finally, see if you can come up with two or three specific things you can do to make each of these changes. Plan to start some of these today.
You've just taken the first step in getting control of Christmas. It wasn't all that hard after all.
There are only 17 more days to Christmas. That doesn't have to be a countdown to exhaustion. It can be 17 days of heightened awareness of the good in our lives -- that which is given to us, that which is given by us.
Hurry up, before it's too late. Slow down.