Christmas advertising used to be a big emotional trigger for me, reminding me of the seemingly endless expectations of the Christmas season. Like others, I noticed that every year the advertising began earlier than the last, giving me a greater sense of urgency earlier and earlier.
For years I yearned to create a memorable Christmas, one I had not experienced during my own childhood. I responded to this inner sense of longing for an elusive “something” by doing more at Christmas.
So I unconsciously turned my family’s Advent and Christmas into a ritual of more and more.
More decorations inside and outside the home, more gifts for each family member, more meal preparation, and more church activities.
Over the years I became a Christmas junkie, obsessed with all things Christmas.
But this year I realized our consumer capitalist society, with its increasing demands for more, finally pushed me, the Christmas junkie, over the edge.
I realized no matter how much I prepare for a perfect Christmas, my sense of yearning persists.
When I saw my first artificial Christmas tree for sale this past August, I understood more fully that the number of crèches, shiny ornaments, table decorations, and carefully wrapped gifts don’t matter.
Only my relationship with The Holy brings me a fullness that I yearn for.
This understanding is not new. It was just buried under the Christmas expectation of acquiring and doing more.
What a long to-do list!
Then I remembered the parable of the loaves and fishes. I remembered God’s abundance when Jesus and the disciples fed all of those hungry people with what appeared to be “not enough.”
I realized I was not alone during Advent or Christmas and that my yearning since childhood would not be filled with buying more and more Christmas gifts. God would meet the yearning, just as God met the needs of the people in the loaves and fish parable.
To honor my desire to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I highlighted three goals instead of taking on my entire Christmas preparation list.
These are my 2015 Christmas expectations:
- I will read the Advent Devotional booklet by the UCC’s Still Speaking Writers with my husband.
- I will invite our family to help unpack and decorate our Christmas tree.
- As my gift to family, I will plan a simple come-as-you-are meal for Christmas Day.
As I reprioritized, my yearning shifted immediately.
Now that I am no longer anxious about all the things I must do for Advent and Christmas, I’m finding a strong desire to maintain the inner space where I experience the joy of Jesus’ birth.
Now I can genuinely pray: “Thank you, shopping mall and consumer capitalist society, for showing me how acquiring more and doing more does not fulfill my inner yearning.”
Barbra Hardy is an orphan on God’s highway. She currently writes to find herself.