This Christmas I would really like to write a meaningful letter to certain friends who deserve one but there’s no time to do it.
I would really like to make some-one else’s Christmas a special one but there’s so much going on. I would really like to have some space, away from the last minute present-buying, traffic and the food shopping but when is that going to happen!? There is, you could say, ‘no room at the inn’ for such things.
It’s strange that we have so much choice – certainly compared to our grandparents and their grandparents before them – and yet life seems a lot more cluttered. Many of us have no time to do the things we really want to do, that we know deep down would be Really Good Things To Do. The postcard on the fridge misquotes a certain philosopher, ‘man is born free, yet everywhere is in chain stores’.
The internet and fast broadband (if you’re lucky) has opened up whole new vistas of shopping experience. That certain item of clothing or picture or piece of music is at your fingertips…yet it can take up so much time. How is it that a simple ‘click’ of the mouse can result in hours of surfing as the real world goes by outside?
Psychologists point out that we are hooked on the experience of buying things, not necessarily the things themselves. Somewhere along the line, in our need to escape the boredom of modern life, we have confused the pleasure of acquiring something with the actual object of our desire. I remember our sons as babies ripping open their Christmas presents, tearing off the beautifully wrapped paper, discarding the contents and moving on to the next one under the tree. Perhaps it’s true that the root of consumerism – which has hijacked much of Christmas – is dissatisfaction.
But as the last leaves fall, away from the queues and the garish lighting of our shopping centres, there is another Christmas. Yes, it takes time to climb a tor or to make space and sit in one of our ancient moorland churches and light a candle, but it might just remind you of who you are (and who God is) as the year folds into another.
This other Christmas involves making time for other people too, including those in need. Real Christmas invites us to sing and to share together (tears included) and hear the old stories and celebrate what we have in common.
After all, there’s no better present than time.
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