Flipping Christmas

The other night Debra and I were watching TV, when she screamed, “What is that?” I looked around expecting to see a mouse scurrying across the floor or a spider repelling from the ceiling.  But what she was upset about was a Christmas commercial.

Yes, its that time of year again. The Christmas season is upon us. For years I have had issues with Christmas. I actually could do without this holiday. I once railed against Christmas as we know it in a blog post called, “What Do Christmas And Porn Have In Common?” Needless to say, it upset a few people.

So, for years I have tried different ways to salvage Christmas. One time by giving meal packs and sweatshirts to homeless people on Christmas Day. By telling people not to get me anything. By helping to distribute toys to families who could not afford them. By leaving the retail world and hoping things would be different. But I have come up empty each year.

My disdain for commercial Christmas starts with the most fundamental part of Christmas: The List. Kids are encouraged every year to make lists of what they want and send them to Santa or to inform him while at the mall. Parents listen to what kids ask for throughout the year and add it to the child’s Christmas list. Grandparent ask parents for lists too, not knowing what grandkids are into these days. The list is so we can tell other people what we want for Christmas.

But do you see what the list creates?  “Here is an alphabetized, color coded, itemized, linked and spread sheet-ed accounting of all the things I want!” Christmas then becomes a selfish orgy of greed inevitably coupled with unmet expectations when we don’t get want we put on our list.

Ever open a “Christmas Sweater” on Christmas morning? What is your first reacting? Out loud you may say, “Wow, thanks! That looks um, um, um warm!” But inside you are thinking “I didn’t ask for that! Its not on my list. I gave them my list. Didn’t they even read it?” Then you start doing the math. Well, with only three more gifts under the tree for you, you have a 13.6% chance of getting what was on your list.

The list makes Christmas all about the individual. All about what they what. All about their expectations. All about their happiness. With a list to help us keep account, Christmas becomes about what we didn’t get.

But what if things were different? What if there were no lists and thus no expectations on our part? What if we simply allowed others to give gifts they thought would fill our hearts full of peace, love and joy?  What if Christmas really was a season about the giving and not the getting?

If we gave not lists, hints or not-so-subtle clues to what we wanted, it would create space for people to give us gifts they thought we would bring us joy. There would be less unmet expectations. Less re-gifting. Less need for the awkward request for receipts. Less “wrong” gifts.

Unfortunately, this idea will not work.
It requires we know people. Truly know people.
It requires intent and forethought.
It requires creativity.
It requires we have hearts full love and that we desire to share that love expressed through gifts, presence (not presents) and tradition.

That’s just too much work, so we ask for lists.

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