“Whatcha’ doing for Christmas?” If you haven’t heard the question yet, you will. It covers a wide variety of inquiries. It may mean, “Are you staying in town or traveling?” It may mean, “Are you having family in or spending the holiday in some quieter, more private way?” It may refer to how much shopping you need to do, what parties you wish to attend, or what plays or movies you plan to see. It may even have to do with personal religious practices (that should be the case, but sadly not everyone couples the season of the holiday with the event of the Holy Day). However it is used, you and I will hear the question posed by numerous people this month: “Whatcha’ doing for Christmas?”
Has it ever occurred to you to answer the question in some way that would probably sound weird to the one who posed it, but is actually critical for people who understand what Christmas is about?For example, has it ever occurred to you to say, “I will be praying a lot more this Christmas”? If this is a time to welcome Christ into our hearts and lives, isn’t prayer vital to that? How can we claim to desire a deeper connection with Christ if we never set aside time to sit in his presence, sharing with him and listening for his voice in the sounds of silence?
Or, we could say, “I am going to forgive someone this Christmas.” Too often we deny ourselves the “good news of great joy” that the angels promised because we allow anger and bitterness to take up the shelf space that joy is intended to occupy. When we have been seriously hurt, it is no easy task to forgive. And yet, when we fail to do so we allow the offender to continue hurting us. We grant them ongoing control over our lives and emotions. That’s what Tony Robbins is talking about when he says that forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. That’s what Jesus was talking about when he said, “You shall forgive your neighbor, not seven times but seventy times seven.”
Maybe we could say, “I’m going to focus on the quality of the gifts I give and not on the quantity.” Because we love, we often lavish people with holiday presents. Our motives are good, as doing so reminds them of how much they mean to us. However, most of the things we give (and receive) are luxuries, not necessities. What if we reduced the number of presents we gave to spouses, parents, children, or friends? Yes, give them some gift, but primarily make donations to charitable agencies in their names. That way our loved ones would be reminded of how much we care, and others who face incredible needs would find light in the darkness. As an accomplished glutton, I appreciate every Christmas cake someone brings to me. But, I also recognize that donations made in my name to City Harvest or God’s Love We Deliver or the Salvation Army or one of numerous other similar organizations provide food to people who are actually hungry.
Maybe we could say, “I’m going to hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Jesus encouraged and applauded that commitment in The Beatitudes. What if we decided to study the biblical Birth stories, to read Advent devotionals (such as the one written by Sister Carol), to watch each installment of “The Bible for Today” Advent studies on-line, to come to church regularly (each time hungering and thirsty for deeper insight into what this whole season is actually about)? When Christmas comes, would we be more ready for it and more able to understand why it matters if we had prepared ourselves beforehand?
“Whatcha’ doing for Christmas?” You and I will hear that question a lot over the next few weeks. Our standard answer is, “Not much. How about you?” Isn’t it a waste of the wonder of Advent if that response is true?