by Richard Hood
I enjoy looking at Christmas lights, and I understand why parents do it for their kids. However, the older I get, the less, not more, important holiday (holy day) decorations have become.
It’s a lot of work, so there must be a pay off. Working at the Christmas tree lot, I witnessed folks who didn’t even bother to unwrap their tree before bringing it home, as well as those who took an hour, leaving a forest of felled trees for others to step over in their wake. All this for a tree already dead and to be thrown out within a couple weeks. The trees don’t even smell anymore, evidently due to being kept frozen since October. If the strong olfactory memory connection isn’t the reason, something beyond the intellect and even the subconscious is going on here.
An otherwise fanatically secular culture that worships creation and feels it needs saving is fine with burning electricity to religiously celebrate – what exactly? There seems to be a frantic urge to not only share the great memories and feelings of the holidays with one’s kids, but to not lose those same feelings as adults. Maybe it’s the urge to fill a spiritual void with the trappings of the temporal and material. I’ve seen something similar in churches which, desiring a visitation of the Spirit, try to get it by turning up the volume of the worship music – like trying to prime the pump.
There’s nothing wrong with outer expressions whose trappings are naturally an outflow – a response – to an inner joy and motivation to share and exalt that with others. When that inner eternal reality is lost, however, the trappings don’t work well in reverse.
Many remember to keep Christ in Christmas, but with the largest church growth coming from third world countries whose churches are continually bulldozed or burned down, at times with the worshippers burned inside, one would think we’d remember the Apostle Paul telling the richer cultures of two millennia ago to share their material surplus with their poorer family of faith. Having building projects for more office or worship space seems ludicrous when all the bells and whistles won’t bring serious seekers. People are seeking purpose, meaning, fellowship and truth. Even the poorest 5 percent of Americans, and by extension their churches, are as rich as the top 5 percent of Indians. If you make $69,000, you are in the top 10 percent of earners worldwide.
We are not the Church here in America, just a small but affluent part on the entire Church universal; which, due to a number of factors, we tend to habitually ignore. Sure, we give a token nod, but the proof of our focus and values is in our balance sheets. The larger, persecuted church, has much to share with us, as there is much learned through suffering, but overall it’s obvious we aren’t interested. On the other hand, we have so much to share materially, but we just put up a blurb in the church lobby and move on. How do you expect you’d feel, as a just and loving Father of many children around the planet, many of whom didn’t trust your love for them enough to share with their siblings as you told them too? What would you do if they refused to listen?
My advice is to make this Christmas a spiritual one. Our flesh is huge, but our spirits are pretty starved in comparison, so why not try feeding the spirit instead? Humans are spirits in shells of flesh, and if we have all we need, we really need to have gratitude for all we have, which will result in the happiness we seek. If material gifts brought lasting happiness, we wouldn’t continually need more gifts to make us happy. Think about giving to those truly in need, and share eternal gifts that won’t break or rust with your loved ones. Try buying things that will build your family bonds and family’s spirits. Reorganize priorities so as to stay on course. What course is that?
Some New Years Eve is going to be your last. Instead of contemplating the last year and the next, try thinking ahead to your last day on Earth. Think about what you wish you had accomplished, what your relationships had been about, your ultimate values. Then plan the next year, and the rest of your life, based on that revelation. Taking stock like that seems wiser than being rocked to and fro on endless waves of alluring advertisements designed to attract. Otherwise, every distracting marketing ploy, every tentacle of this material world is going to pull you under. How much better it would be to know your destiny, your purpose in being created, in being given life, and to keep that new heading ever before your eyes.
If you’re looking for fulfillment, here’s my gift to you – the most positive, meaningful single page you’ll ever come across at Fathersloveletter.com. It may restore the eternal reality to your holiday season. Let your Christmas lights shine, but may they be a reflection of an eternal joy that isn’t packed away in January. Be blessed, and have a very merry Christmas!
Richard Hood is a songwriter and former Christmas tree cutter from Valencia, CA.