Thursday, December 15, 2011

My raging case of Christmas Guilt

Christmas Guilt. It starts with a gentle call to notice and participate in good acts around us ...



... grows into a pointed urge to drop the emphasis on "stuff" ...



... and ends with a hands-on-hips, face-the-music, flame-throwing appeal to let go of our material dependency and re-focus on the greater call of the season.



Here's how my internal thought process goes at this time of year after watching videos like these:
  • Hi Conscience, this is Brain.
  • Oh hey.
  • So, I contributed to Adopt-a-Family at church and made a couple year-end donations ... I'm good, right?
  • Well, how much did you spend on that vs. what you spent in gifts for family, friends, and Fella?
  • Does that matter?
  • I think it does.
  • I don't think it's any of your business.
  • Fine.
  • (awkward silence) It's about more than money, anyway. I also listened exclusively to religious music and spent quality time with my loved ones. And I wasn't extravagant -- definitely stayed within my means.
  • The same means you could have shared with others?
  • (pause) I am so over you.
Seriously, though ... how much am I called to do? I do my best to focus my energy on the season's inherent spiritual call. I tithe. I donate. I spend time with people. I avoid malls, commercials, and vapid pop music. And I still feel a little itchy.

Why? Has the recession made others' needs greater and more apparent than ever? Am I growing older and wiser to the world around me? Or is this because I'm Catholic, and we like guilt?

Partially these reasons, and likely something bigger. The little Linus inside my chest is looping his 'That's what Christmas is all about' monologue and reminding me that it's more than a season, it's a way of life. As Richard Beck notes in his excellent blog post (via Amy Moffitt again), "I truly want people to spend time working on their relationship with God. I just want them to do it by taking the time to care about the person standing right in front of them."

I think that might be it. Every December I go one step further than I might the rest of the year to serve others, and it feels wonderful, but then I let the effort into another well-intentioned ghost of Christmas past. Well, not this year. Let's make the next one a year of perpetual #goodspotting, a year of less stuff, and a year rife with conspiracies of the most loving kind.

Prayer #192: Bow

Bows on presents we wish to open give joy for a minute. Bows to a throne we wish to approach give joy for a lifetime. So bend my knees lower, stretch my arms as wide as they go, and face me in a new direction, so I can worship with abandon and draw closer to all You ask of me.

Amen.

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