15 November 2006

Merry Xmas from Your Friends at StuffMart

I'm redefining the term "Xmas."
Used to be that it was shorthand for "Christmas," that blessed remembrance of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. "X" resembles the cross upon which Christ was crucified. (Very honorable for mere shorthand- which is notoriously lacking in couth- if you ask me.) So Xmas became the fast way to still personalize all your holiday cards while keeping Christ the focus. Kinda.

Henceforth, for me, Xmas is going to mean, "the thing we do on December 25th that has nothing to do with the Savior of the world, but has everything to do with going into debt so we can impress our co-workers and neighbors; buy our children's love; gain the admiration of our in-laws; and live the American dream- in which you CAN (and deserve to) have it all."
It's the "Sign your name by the X, please," kind of Xmas.
You don't need me to tell you that America is by far- BY FAR- one of the wealthiest countries in history. You don't need a guilt trip. America is, well, richer than snot. You may not feel so rich compared to the Paris' and Donald's in the U.S., but trust me, if you're not boiling grass for dinner tonight, you're doing better than a lot of other members of our planet.

I Corinthians 7:17, 23-24 says this:

Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches...
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.
It begs the question- what situation has God called me to?

Which leads to other questions-
Am I using credit to fund a lifestyle to which I have not been called?
Have I been trying to maintain the standard of living I enjoyed under Mommy and Daddy's roof as a child?
Am I attempting to keep up with the Joneses at church, the Joneses next door, the Joneses on TV, the Joneses in the mall...?
Has the Lord even assigned me the same station as the Joneses?

America, we are baaaaaad at this! Victims and perpetrators of the lie that next year's model is the only one worthy of our money. Credit is so easily obtained. Bad credit so hard to expunge. And with this millstone around our neck, we're drowning.

True Confession: I have realized that, as a Christian-of-a-certain -station-to-which-the-Lord-has-assigned-me, there are certain stores and parts of town that I have no business being in.

Simply because of what it does to my heart. It shatters my contentment. Suddenly, I discover that the car I've been happily driving for 6 years is, like, so passe'. And my shoes, well, they ought to have been outlawed long ago. My cell phone doesn't do text messaging? How on earth have I survived this long?!
Wohoa! Fifteen minutes ago I was as happy as a clam, and now I'm the pouty French fruit, Madame Blueberry. Can't find a cotton pickin' thing in my life to be grateful for. "Ah'm zo blue-hoo-hoo, blue-hoo-hoo, blue-hoo-hoo-HOO!"
How does all this relate to Xmas? (Psssst! It's coming up, you know.) 'Tis the season for catalogs, commercials, brochures and flyers. 'Tis the season for StuffMart, Wally World and Maison de Junque to send us valuable coupons tucked inside festive seasonal cards. 'Tis the season when Zales, DeBoers, and Tiffany compete with Lexus, Lincoln and Humvee for your Xmas-y credit accounts.

Here's where I want to encourage a paradigm shift.
Is there some way that you and your family can make your holidays about CHRIST rather than about signing on the X of the charge card slip? To make it Christmas rather than Xmas?

Some ideas that our family has tried in recent past:
- Each person draws one different family member. Give that person a gift beginning with the first letter of their first name. $20 limit.
- Draw names for one family member. Any amount you would normally spend on a gift for that person, instead, send to a charity of their choosing. Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse, and Care Net (or another local crisis pregnancy center) are good ones, to start with.
- Vote on a theme for the gift giving, then limit the price range to a v e r y low amount.
Last year, my family chose "bundle." This year our family will vote between, "handmade," "point," "around," "flimsy," and "season." (Yeah, totally open to interpretation, but that's what makes Christmas morning so fun. We get to see how everyone interprets the theme. And because we only draw one person's name, we don't spend the entire day watching the mountian of holiday wrap bulge the doors. We visit, and eat, and play games, and nap, and eat more, and laugh about how a coffee carafe can somehow be considered a "bundle.")
- Spend Christmas together as a family, in worship! Remember as a group, the Word that became flesh. Contemplate together about what it means to have the King of the Universe squalling in the mud and the muck of our human gene pool. That means something. Profound.
Many of us have family members (or ourselves) who just plain like giving and getting gifts. It's our love language and we ain't giving it up. I'm not trying to rob you. Merely encouraging all of us to think outside the box (you know, the box shaped like a Super Target) this year. Could your "box" be the thrift store? Or the drug store? People on your gift list probably need more deodorant and toothpaste anyway.

If you'll click on my MP3 player, you can hear Jerry Lewis singing of the festive
Xmas season. (His voice is annoying, so you have to willingly press play if you wanna hear him. I'm not that Grinchy.)


Blogger Erica said...

This is so funny! I was blogging this morning about my issues with Christmas and how it has soooo lost it's meaning with the corporations and their desire to profit so much out of it and take Christ out of Christmas.

We also get so caught up on being content with what we receive and miserable with what we don't, that we don't even hold up the meaning of Christmas ourselves.

Thanks so much for blogging what I didn't get to finish! You beat me to it. :-)

12:09 AM  
Blogger Kelley said...

OK, that must have been brewing around inside for a long time, because I know you are still recovering from the "Apples to Apples" all-nighter last weekend. No room for deep thoughts then, so you must be getting back to normal and remembering all this good stuff.

But I have to say, your thought echo ones I've had more often since becoming a mother...how to give my kids (and remind myself of) the right perspective on Christmas. It's especially hard when others are piling on the gifts, or extended family members don't have the same philosophy and perhaps get hurt feelings if you don't participate in the frenzy. Any thoughts on handling them?

11:44 PM  
Blogger gretalynn said...

Thanks, Erin, for boldly questioning a subject almost sacred to our society! The truth is, although I long to finally be in TX doing what we believe God has called us to do, I fear a little a return to what has become unfamiliar to me in my current society. Although, unfortunately, the Christmas consumerism is invading us here, too.

Angel and I decided last year that we want the Christmas Dinner to be more important than gifts. We started our family tradition--even though it was our first "married" CHristmas--of inviting friends who have nowhere else to go to spend the evening with us. (Since here we celebrate on the 24th late at night.) Of course, we don't have kids yet, so we haven't had to deal with how to avoid the consumerism yet.

My family gave up buying gifts for adults several years back. You know how it is--we were five kids and now with in-laws and kids...wow! Last year instead of gifts, my family took the time to take a trip to DC together instead. We didn't make it, of course, but the rest of the crew--even the kids--enjoyed the few days immensely and the time as a family was quite a fulfilling gift!

Thanks for promoting COmpassion Int'l. One of my "former campers" from my days at summer camp works for them in Colorado! :)

Random thoughts--sorry--but thanks again. It's not popular to question traditions, but often necessary.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Erica, Your point about being CONTENT is so appropriate. When I think about it... what in the world do I possibly lack that I am DIScontent with any aspect of Christmas?? (Other than that it's become more about Mattel and Fisher Price than it is about Jesus Christ.)

Kelley, The Apples to Apples all nighter was such food to my soul! And the company with which I was playing made it that much better. ;)

My thoughts on gift giving with extended family members.
Two things:

- I have tried to flip the materialistic ideal so that any of the occasions on which my children might traditionally expect to get a gift becomes an opportunity for THEM to gift someone ELSE. Their past several birthdays have been "no gift" parties. Usually, the guests comply, with the occasional balloon bouquet, or a fun card, but not nearly the amount of present unwrapping and focus on getting stuff.
I preach to my kids a lot around their b-days that this is a time to honor their friends and show them how much they enjoy their relationship. So, my b-day girl actually sends her little friends home with a bag full of good stuff. I would just rather lavish gifts on their buddies than have my kid get all the goods.

And at Christmas time, I have really latched on to the Operation Christmas Child idea. (Angel Tree is also a neat idea, although I've not personally done one.) It has become one of our favorite traditions to imagine ourselves as a 6 year old girl in Honduras (or Chechnya, or Siberia...) and choosing gifts that we think we would like to receive. Just allowing my kids to lavish love on another child for the sake of Christ is such a powerful thing. Steve and I try to set a very generous budget for our shoebox gifts (although the cynic in me wonders if the box contents don't sometimes get switched and swapped to make things equitable. That's beside the point for me. The point is that my kids are giving generously because God has given generously to THEM.) The girls get SO excited to write little notes, draw pictures, and pray for the child that is going to get their shoebox gift. One year, Rebekah even got to watch a girl in Mexico open the box that she had packed. sigh. misty eyes. warm fuzzies.

- As for those loving grandparents and relatives, I have just decided that gift giving is a grandparents "right." :) My kids don't get to see their grandparents very often, so giving gifts and bringing delight to my kids is something I dare not take away from their once-a-year time together.
I am far more practical than most of our relatives (PLEASE just buy them underwear and pencils!!!), but I just keep my mouth shut and let the grandparents buy my children what my children say they really want. (Within reason, of course. Rebekah says she wants a horse this year, so I'll have to send out the "nix it" vibes on that one.)
We've tried to relate our gift giving perspective to our family members, and sometimes it flies, sometimes it doesn't. Seriously, if giving gifts is someone's love language, who am I to take that from them? So I just try to balance it out. I'd rather that my kids think fondly on their relatives and all the GREAT STUFF they got them, and think of me as the dowdy, frumpy, boring and practical Mom. I'm going to wear that mantle anyhow- it comes along with the Motherhood title. Might as well live up to it. ;)

Greta, Where are you?? I thought you WERE in Texas. Now I'm just confused.

I love your family's idea of taking a trip together. In my humble opinion, that is so much more fun than sitting atop a pile of socks, ties, CDs, and electronics on Christmas morning.
And inviting the lonely over for Christmas dinner is such a way to celebrate Christ's coming to earth. Man, talk about hospitality- Jesus came HERE looking to invite US to dine in fellowship with the KING.

Now ya'll are getting me excited for Christmas!!

10:51 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Great post..I am so on the same page with you about the Grandparents gift giving...didn't used to be...but moving does that. I also reserve the right not to keep it forever though. (Not in a cruel "Mommy Dearest" way though.)

Love the theme idea and all the creativity it inspires. "Point"...that just makes me laugh. Let's see, hmmm...a ballpoint pen...oh, a sparkley brooch with a pointy enclosure!!! Great idea!

5:58 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Loving your song btw, I am on the 2nd round. :) Jerry Lewis is so funny. hahahaha

6:03 PM  
Blogger Lance said...

Amen sister! Couldn't have said it better!

For a real eye opener on how rich we Americans really are, go to the following website, type in your annual income, and see how you rank in the world: http://www.globalrichlist.com/index.php

10:32 PM  
Blogger gretalynn said...

Uh...I switched to the Google thing and I can't get the comments down in one sitting. I know that sentence made no sense.

ANYWAY--we're in Mexico--still. When we had the petitions approved in Nov 2005 they said, "9-12 months for an interview appointment." And, we have finally received the date of December 12 for Angel's interview. PRAY!

If Uncle Sam approves my esposo for his resident visa, we'll be in Texas soon!

I've been meaning to get a prayer-letter sent...I should do that soon!

10:36 PM  
Blogger Carolanne said...

It's not just America who has lost (or is losing) Christ out of Christmas, that also applies to Australia.
I did love the idea of theme gift giving and will pass it on to siblings and parents, grandchildren and the like.
Our parents gave us a rich heritage and taught us to value traditions/making memories with our own families.

7:28 AM  

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