Imagine: a Christmas without wrapping
Reverend Michael Busch, National Post Published: Monday, December 22, 2008
Many years ago, my family decided that instead of a huge hoard of commercially produced presents under the tree, we would make donations to charities or participate in programs which helps those who are less fortunate than us.
This kind of Christmas sounds very radical to many people. Christmas is, after all, a major component of this country's economy. Many retailers make one third or more of their profits from the Christmas season. And so it hits a nerve to question whether all this makes sense. Should we be celebrating the birth of our Saviour, who served the poorest of the poor, by showering each other with battery operated nose hair trimmers?
Consumerism is a powerful influence on us all year round. But on Christmas morning, waking up to mounds of presents makes consumerism almost sacred. Christmas is about Christ, God's gift of redeeming love, given to the world. No matter what branch of Christianity you favour, the true gift of Christmas is the redemption of the world through the birth of a child who embodies faithfulness and love, humility and obedience, sacrifice and selflessness.
Christmas can give us something else to reach for beyond the accumulation of wealth, power and status. It can change the way we look at the world around us. It can motivate a more passionate response to those who are less fortunate than us. We can extend the hope and peace of Christmas beyond this one day by replacing that cart load of commercial presents with the most precious gift we possess; our time.
An ear that listens, a voice that comforts and a hand to hold in times of loneliness, fear and abandonment can bring a lot more peace and joy to this world than a lavish dinner party or a thousand beautifully wrapped presents.
Has Christmas become too big, too flashy and too stressful for you? Has gift giving supplanted the simple story of a child born to give his life to us? Is the only lingering presence of Christmas the roasting pan soaking in the kitchen sink and the credit card bills in January? If so, then maybe the solution is to make it smaller, more joyful, more personally interactive.
It will take patient practice to put the right meaning back into our Christmas giving. Start by taking a good look at what goes on in your home this Christmas. What is most important to you? Is it the gift giving, the decorations, the over-the-top dinner that gives it meaning; or is it the laughter of children, the joy of a partner who has shared the good and the bad with you and the loving community of family and friends that have enriched your life?
This Christmas day I will share the Eucharist with the parishioners here at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto, giving thanks for all those who have strengthened and enriched my ministry. I offer the sacrifice of the mass, and my own commitment to serve them. Especially those who are in great need. Then I will go to my mother's and share some quiet memories of our many Christmases together. After that I will visit some very special friends and, together we will share our fears, hopes and dreams for the future.
These are the gifts I will give, and gifts I will receive this Christmas. And there won't be a single shred of wrapping paper or discarded ribbon to clean up afterwards.
-Reverend Michael Busch is the Rector of St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto.
Photos: Archdiocese of Toronto, www.freefoto.com