I don't know if there's anyone else who starts feeling a bit contrary around this time of year, or if it's just me, but all of the push to spend, spend, SPEND, makes me want to go make some homemade gifts and send off a check to World Vision or Heifer, International.
As anyone who knows me knows, I'm not averse to spending money. At all. I enjoy shopping. I like nice things. I love to buy gifts and often pick up little things that I think that the people I love will like here and there during the year. But, boy do I hate the constant inundation of ads in my email, my mailbox, and on my radio for DISCOUNTS!, LAST CHANCE!, BUY STUFF!
I can't imagine thinking that my buying RIGHT NOW is so important that I encourage retailers to open on national holidays, causing thousands of moms and dads, sons and daughters, to have to miss holiday time, often with family who have traveled far to be there.
I can't imagine believing that it is so vital that I get my hands on some discounted piece of made-in-China gadgetry that I will trample other people to get to it.
Or that it is so necessary that my child have a particular toy under the tree that I will engage in a hair-pulling fight to ensure its presence.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those, "The world has ruined Christmas" people. Sometime the second week in December or so, when the furor of bargain-grabbing has subsided, I will dress up and go to the mall. (I will, however, leave town and go to a specific mall where I don't think I'll see anyone shopping in her pajamas, and where I often feel delightfully underdressed.) I will get my triple grande one-pump caramel brulee latte. I will wander in and out of festively decorated stores and pick up a few final gifts. I will enjoy the Christmas music.
I will decorate my house a little at a time, until the tree goes up in a couple of weeks. I'll break out my Christmas music. I'll bake cookies. And if someone wishes me "Happy Holidays" I certainly won't snarl at them.
The world can't ruin Christmas, because it isn't theirs to ruin. They can't even ruin Advent, which is the actual season of the world's "Christmas" frenzy. We can ruin it for ourselves and our loved ones by getting caught up in the pressure to do, be, and buy too much. I always find it anchoring to attend church during Advent. Not just on Sunday, but midweek, too. And if you are blessed, as I am, to be in a church where there are daily services, attending them can be a great antidote to the pre-Christmas stress that overindulgence of all sorts can bring. It's a good channel for my contrary feelings. It reminds us that this is a season of repentance, anticipation, and preparation.
Although a check to Heifer isn't a bad channel for contrarian impulses, either.
“Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by your protection we may be
rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by your
(Collect for the First Sunday in Advent.)