It seems like as I've grown older, the time to start celebrating Christmas has come earlier each year. Santa Claus arrived at our local mall on November 10 so I guess it must be time to start celebrating Christmas, yes? The past couple of days have gifted us with milder weather and temperatures in the low 60s. As I drive across town from my parent's house to my apartment, I have noticed that many people have their Christmas decorations out already. The lights, the wreaths, inflatable Santas and reindeer and snowmen, penguins wearing colorful hats and scarves, and an occasional manger scene adorn the front yards of many homes. Perhaps people were taking advantage of the warmer weather to get their decorations out. It makes sense. It's pretty hard to drive a plastic candy cane into the ground after it has frozen without using a sledgehammer and then you risk shattering the candy cane!
But it's only November 12! As Halloween was preparing to end, the Christmas stock was being rolled out onto the shelves at the stores. Even the Thanksgiving decorations are already on clearance sale! The commercials for the chocolate diamond jewelry from Jared's and the newest Lexus models are on, showing us the "perfect" gifts to give to the ones we love. I hate those ads because I allow them to make me feel inferior for not having the money to buy a new Lexus for my father (even if he doesn't want one). I'm much more comfortable with the Old Navy ads for $5.00 sweaters. I find that for myself, all of this "preseason commercial push" seems to distract me from what I believe is the true meaning of Christmas, a product of my lifelong faith, the birth of Christ. The more I allow myself to get swept up in the ribbons and bows, bright lights and sparkles, the greater the chance that I will miss the the meaning of the manger celebrated with the dim glow of a candle being raised above my head during the final verse of Silent Night in church on Christmas Eve.
Now don't get me wrong. I like to give and receive gifts at Christmas. Even though I am 42 years old, I am still the first one to the tree on Christmas morning. (In fact, last year I drove over to my parent's house before the sunrise, let myself in through the garage using my assigned security code, and sat in a chair, next to the tree, for 2 hours waiting for someone else to get up. You should have seen the surprised look on my father's face when he came out of his bedroom to find me already in his house, ready to open presents!) But in the midst of all of that excitement and celebration, laughter and fun, I will pause to give thanks to God for the greatest gift of all. And however you celebrate and recognize the holiday, I wish you joy and peace and love.