It's Baaaacckk! It seems as if Christmas was last week and yet it is just around the corner. What most people want for Christmas is two more weeks to prepare. If we planned Christmas, we could not have planned it any worse.
We take a couple of weeks out of the year and have a musical at the church that involves everyone who can sing. We put the rest in bathrobes and act out the first Christmas. We add sheep and camels — no problem — just let them sleep in the church gym. Or better yet, let them roam the neighborhood. Last year we had a sheep reported roaming on a fairway of the country club at 3 a.m.
Totally redecorate the house with garland, mistletoe, trees, candles, lights, and even nativity scenes. Make the entire family go pick out the perfect tree. Then let the kids goof off while Dad tries to get it in the stand straight enough to please Mom. Mom decorates the whole thing while she yells at the kids to help. Let's also put Dad up on the roof and see if he can break his neck while he tries to put more lights on the house than the neighbors have. Then invite all of the relatives to meet at the house for dinner and exchanging of gifts. Couples with two sets of relatives just have to choose sides. After all, it's Christmas.
Be sure to send cards to every person you've ever met. Better yet, send a letter to everyone about the family and tell them about all the illnesses over the past year. Let the kids out of school for these two weeks so they can "help" with all these activities. Have an open house for 100 close friends whom you've not seen during the year because life is so hectic.
Of course, give a gift to all the people who served during the year, like the postman and newspaperman, whom we don't know because we didn't have time to get to know them during the year.
Develop certain traditions to do no matter how dumb and miserable they become. Personally, if I have to watch It's A Wonderful Life again, I'll push Jimmy Stewart off the bridge myself. A movie idea that would work well is about a prehistoric food that inexplicably survives into modern times by way of Christmas. Call it Jurassic Fruitcake. I suppose you know that there are only five fruitcakes in existence and they are just passed around at Christmas time. That's why you have never seen anyone eat fruitcake, or for that matter, drink eggnog.
Determine to spend more money on the family than ever before. The only way Santa Claus can get into the house is through our wallets. Go to the mall, park two time zones away, practice some brotherly shove, and get that special present for the kids. Purchase the toy that has printed on the box, in very small print, "batteries not included" and "some assembly is required" (translated, this means, "person with post doctoral training in mechanical engineering might have a chance.")
You don't know how much trouble you're really in until 2 a.m. when you have all the parts scattered from the living room to the kitchen and all the stores are closed. When you finally do decide to swallow your pride and read the instructions, you find they are written in several languages, none of which you understand.
And of course, your mate must have a special gift. Not like last year when she said, "Surprise me." At 3 a.m. I shined a spotlight in her face and said, "BOO!" Or not like the year before when she asked for something to make her beautiful and I gave her an exercise bike. What do you do? You end up getting something expensive. You know you've spent too much when you sing, Hock the Harold Angels Sing, or I've Heard the Bills on Christmas Day.
No wonder the little girl prayed, "Father forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us."
And I almost forgot. Let's have five Christmas Eve services at the church. Why? The answer should be obvious. If we can't enjoy Christmas, at least we can explain it. It's so easy to lose the spirit with all the stuff to do and all the stuff to buy.
When I was growing up we had many different children live with us. We were like "family court." My dad was a preacher in a small town that didn't have a court system. When parents ran away or took off, we took the kids in and kept them. One year we had a little boy named Johnny. He had four brothers and sisters who were in an orphanage, but Johnny was too little. It was his very first big Christmas and we overdid it. We bought Johnny everything. You can't pass up the blue light specials when you have a little kid. Christmas morning we were so excited because Johnny had never really had a Christmas like he was going to have. Toys were everywhere.
He came and saw it all, looking at one thing and then another and another and finally he just went and climbed into the lap of my older brother, Fred. Fred was so proud. He asked, "Johnny what do you like best?" thinking Johnny would say he liked Fred's gift best. Johnny looked up at Fred and said, "I like you best." Doesn't that knock you out? All that stuff and what does Johnny like best? Johnny likes Fred because Fred is a person.
You see, it's hectic and many times not enjoyable because we do stuff and give stuff but don't give ourselves. Kids sum it up best. The mother said, "Son, we are all going to work hard and have the best Christmas ever." The little boy asked, "How are we going to improve on the first one?"
We can't. Let's just do for others what He did for us the first Christmas. It is really pretty simple. Give less stuff and give more self. That's the spirit.