The Not-So Happy Holidays

It struck me as I was flipping the radio station this morning.  

Holiday-themed commercials have begun hitting the airwaves, and it isn’t good news.  I haven’t heard one single commercial that portrays the holidays in a positive way.  Every single one of them has accented what a crazy time the holidays are, how expensive they are, and how many unexpected difficulties in the form of family members we have to endure.  And, of course, how Product X can help cope with all of that.  
The holidays aren’t anything special, they’re just a bunch of work and inconvenience.  They’re just about spending money and time we don’t have on people we either don’t want to be around or who are essentially tactless ingrates.  I’m pretty sure Norman Rockwell is either rolling over in his grave.   
Funny, how when you remove anything meaningful from these celebrations, when you insist that it’s offensive to celebrate Christmas, but OK to celebrate an undefined holiday (not holy day), that what rises to the surface is that these occasions are a lot of work.  When there isn’t a reason for the season, the season becomes all about me and what (or who) I like or don’t like.  It becomes a return on investment analysis where I always seem to be on the losing end of things.  
Which is perfect for advertisers, because it’s an easy sell to try and convince me that I deserve to indulge myself a little more considering all the crap I’ll be dealing with for the next six months.  It’s an easy sell to convince me of an easier way of handling all of my social obligations through Product X.  When we celebrated Christmas, the emphasis was on the sentimental nature of the season, family memories and traditions (which conveniently required Product X as well).  Now that all we have is a holiday, there’s no reason to do all of this.  We’re going through the motions, and Product X will help us do that as cheaply or easily as possible.  
It isn’t that Christmas was never stressful or less than idyllic.  But celebrating Christmas as opposed to a generic holiday reminds me that there is a reason for dealing with all of the stress and difficulty.  I’m not doing it just for the heck of it, or else I probably wouldn’t be doing it at all!  Rather, I’m doing it for a very specific reason, a reason far greater than me and my annoyance levels.  A reason that leads me to put up with having my cheeks pinched by Aunt Bertha or being displaced into a sleeping bag on the living room floor so Grandpa can sleep in my bed, or cooking for six hours to prepare for a family dinner that will be over in about 30 minutes.  
The reason isn’t because these things in and of themselves are naturally desirable.  The reason is what was given for me.  What I have received because the Son of God wasn’t put off by the idea of being physically born in a stable or raised in the dusty, occupied region of Galilee, or ultimately suffering and dying horribly for me.  Christmas gets me out of myself and reminds me that I have received so much, that it becomes joyful (if not always easy!) to give to others.
The holidays don’t do this.  They can’t.  And they aren’t.  Just listen to radio commercials.  

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