This year many of my friends are complaining that Thanksgiving has been swallowed up in the bridge of time between Halloween and Christmas.
That could be because Black Friday is starting about the same time as Thanksgiving dinner.
Christmas is a time when we have mixed emotions.
Some of us are walking on air, as happy and free as a bird in flight. The holidays for us are filled with the warmth of cozy fires, friendly family gatherings, and lavish generosity. It really is the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?
Others of us burn down the world around us with the acid of our bitterness. Christmas reminds us of the pain of losing a loved one, an alcoholic father, or a loneliness so real it is punctuated by having nowhere to go and nothing to do. The collective hurt moves us deeper into selfishness and despair, doesn’t it?
I’ll grant you that these are extremes. It’s in the subtleties that life gets complicated.
Here are three ways we see generosity at Christmas.
First, we give gifts.
We feel especially generous this time of year. Sure, we give our immediate family presents. But our giving spirits extend into where we live, work, and play. We buy things for our kids’ teachers, even if we barely know them. We get presents for our coworkers when our work culture creates that expectation. We exchange gifts with those with whom we partner in the community.
The list could go on and on and on.
This spirit is greatly encouraged by retailers who depend on our generosity to make it into the black.
You may be wondering, “If I’ve been generous to people, even those who don’t like and probably won’t even appreciate my gift, what could possibly be wrong with that?”
That’s a good question.
We can mask our selfishness behind our gestures if generosity.
“Now, wait a minute. If I give away something, how can I be selfish?”
I’ve said the same thing. On the surface, it just doesn’t add up, does it? Peel back the veneer, though, and you might see one or more of these three things.
The first is pride.
If you give more gifts than Santa could fit into his magic bag, have a Christmas budget that resembles the national debt, and have to hire a team of elves to wrap and deliver it all, you might feel a bit proud about it. You might even be tempted to brag a bit. Why, Santa probably would benefit from consulting you.
The retailers will mark you as a very important customer.
The second selfish motivator is guilt.
Suppose you work so much your kids have forgotten your face. You work hard to provide a great material lifestyle. Unfortunately, that leaves precious little face to face time at home. So you buy gifts to assuage your guilt.
The third motivator is bribery.
You have high hopes for your career. That coworker in the next cubicle is your dream date. You want to close the deal so your business can win.
You figure the best way to up your chances is with an expensive, unexpected, and desirable gift.
So there you have it. Even the most noble of intentions can point back to you getting what you want.
I’m not going to ask you to boycott Christmas.
I’m not going to suggest you feel obligated to buy everybody something.
What I am saying is this:
Don’t give in order to get something.
Don’t give so you can brag about it later.
Don’t give to merely impress the recipient.
Give because you feel a real sense of generosity.
Give because God has been generous to you.
Give because you can.
Try to have the right motives. Pray over it. Do the best you can.
Then don’t worry about it.
Have a great Thanksgiving!