It is the fashion about this time each year to begin Christmas shopping. We may load our pockets with cash, and our hearts with guilt. Some folks have been brought up on warnings and admonitions every time there is a time of fun. Some Christians don’t know how to have fun, unless it is sprinkled and spiced with guilt. It is as if they must be more serious, thrifty, concerned about others. As the Christmas season opens, writers and speakers in the Christian community say, in one way or another, like our parents did when we went out for an evening of fun, “Now be careful!” So now it is, “Have a Merry Christmas, but not too merry, not too joyous, not too much fun.”
Again we will hear about over-commercializing Christmas, putting Christ back into Christmas, the paganism of the Christmas tree, tinsel as the symbol of superficiality, cash registers as the symbol of what Christmas has become. Necessary correctives, perhaps, but we need more of the opposite! We need encouragement to have fun, let our joy bloom, even be foolishly full of fun, or extravagant. Isn’t that what the heart of Christmas is, namely, “joy to the world”?
I will never forget an incident from our first year of marriage. Linda and I were living in Ann Arbor and our lives became intertwined with a family of desperately poor people. A mother, and four children, all of school age. They lived in abject poverty. They had broken windows, very little money, a sickly mother, and a house that was hardly livable. But when Christmas came, the children had, through odd jobs, accumulated a little money and they invited us to come over on Christmas Day to see the gift they had bought for their mother. They were very excited about it.
So we went to their house, carrying in our minds some vague expectations of what kind of a gift they had bought for her. Perhaps a warm coat, a new purse, or maybe an electric frying pan, or a toaster. Instead we were knocked over with surprise and chagrin. They asked us to close our eyes as they went into the next room to get the gift. Then they brought from behind the curtain the gift. It was a huge stuffed donkey about five feet tall! It must have cost them $25 or $35 (1962). They were thrilled. We were stunned, but acted like we were pleased. (In fact we thought it was a very “stupid” gift. Of all the things she needed, that was the least.)
Still, as we thought about it, there may have been something right in that kind of gift! Here they were in their poverty; hardly anything they could have bought of a practical nature would have changed their status significantly. So why not buy something totally enjoyable, just for the fun and excitement of giving it?
A little of that has to go into the Christmas season. Instead of hand-wringing and furrowed brows about the fun we’re having when there are poor people dying on the other side of town, maybe a little reckless happiness is called for. Christians must be thoughtful and concerned, but there is something bottomless about that pit. There is a time for unrestrained Christmas foolishness, impractical fun! Forget, the shaking fingers and historical surveys about the paganism of the Christmas tree. Enjoy Christmas and have fun! Christ lives! Relax and enjoy Christmas freely and fully, uncluttered by guilt.
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At my age ’Getting lucky’ means walking into a room and remembering what I came in there for.