Can you feel it all around you? The stressed and snappy shoppers catwalking down the sidewalk, glued to their cell phones/bluetooths/Blackberrys/Kindles/iPods/etc. The cards arriving in the mail that show just the family’s children, so you know basically that 1) Their children grew a couple of inches since the last card, and 2) At least a portion of the family is still alive. The catalogues advertising toys in every color, shape, size, and sale. Models on commercials that prove Christmas sweaters are coming back– on size 2 Photoshopped beach blondes with their Axe-doused picture-perfect Prince Charmings.
It’s that time of year again, folks. The Christmas season.
It’s pathetic. It seems the older I grow and the more of the world I see, the less I understand it.
I get the concept that the secular world is going to continue to embrace Christmas as a chance for presents and too much food. But it’s not just the secular community that sometimes views December 25th as a pile of presents.
It’s the Christians, too.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s outright evil to give and receive presents; that you’ll be condemned to the deepest reaches of hell if you wrap a gift and stick it under the tree. But I’m just saying we need to step back and realign our priorities here. Christmas. What comes first?
Last week I was at the winter brunch hosted by my church. Our speaker was an older woman who used the example of the jar and the rocks as far as straightening priorities. If you put all the little rocks– the less important things (she said things like baking, shopping, Christmas movies)– in the jar first, then tried to fit in the real priorities (spending time reading your Bible, with family, helping at homeless shelters, etc), it just wouldn’t fit. There wasn’t enough room in the jar if you put the pebbles in first.
But when you put the larger rocks, bigger priorities, in first, then try to squeeze in the pebbles, lo and behold, everything fits. The smaller priorities can fit in among the cracks of what’s most important.
And you’re left with a jar of rocks.
It sounds simple enough, but sorting the pebbles from the stones is harder to actually apply. There are lines you have to draw, things you have to tell yourself you can live without for a few weeks while you get ready for the 25th, and things you maybe have to do more often. I’m still in the process of doing it myself, personally. And I’m just a teenager; I don’t generally have to worry about big-ticket shopping, relatives coming in (although I do have to clean the house), bills and checks and balances and finances, etc.
I’d help with the cooking, but I’m not exactly a chef. First time I made grilled cheese, Mom had to ask what it was. (That was less than a year ago. I can make EasyMac, though ;D)
…Well, okay, that’s not a fair statement. Most of the time I can make EasyMac. Sometimes I forget to add the water, and remember at just about the moment when the microwave starts smoking.
Anyway, I’m not much of a chef, a financial advisor, or a big-time shopper. Being a student has its own hassles (like right now I should be studying for four midterm tests on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday), but it’s really not much, in comparison.
So what’s the best way to sort priorities and distinguish the pebbles from the stones? I sit down with a piece of paper or a Word document, and make a list of everything I like to do. I put year-round stuff on there, too, like riding my horse and cleaning my room (on the occasions THAT gets done XD), and stuff I can’t compromise at all on (like homework).
Then I go through and sort it by priority. According to my parents, everything school-related has to come first. Then there’s church and chores, equestrian, writing, and then stuff like seasonal movies and YouTube.
It’s easy, once you break it down, to see which are the stones and which are pebbles. I tend to cut myself more slack than I should and say that the only pebbles I really have here are the movies and other videos. (I suppose my addiction to Zelda should go on that list as well.) Obviously school, church, and chores are non-negotiable. I can’t just neglect my lovely horse for the remainder of the Christmas season– plus, if I didn’t ride her, I’d go crazy past any sort of mental help. Writing is (hopefully) going to be my career for the rest of my life, and the only way to get good at it is to practice.
When I find myself making excuses for certain things, I stop and look at the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things, do I really need to be completely caught up on Kristina Horner’s videos and up-to-date on the newest Hyperbole and a Half? Won’t all that stuff still be archived come January? Is it more important to find the newest Jason Munday song on iTunes, or to play a game of Sorry with my family?
It’s hard. I know that sounds trivial, but it is. When you’re used to a life largely made up of these little things, setting them aside for even a month is weird. I’m only in one roleplay right now (although that’s probably due more to the fact that I have too much homework, not any brilliant move on my holiday-strategizing part), and I’m doing my best to cut back on TV as well. The Office and Stargate aren’t in our Netflix ‘Recently Watched’ box as much—or at least not because of me.
But when you look past the YouTube and the RPGing and geeking out on Stargate marathons, and you focus more on the stones, you find yourself feeling a little more whole inside. There’s something… I don’t know, there’s something warm and fuzzy you get inside you after spending a night playing board games with your family. When you’ve been online for seven hours straight, you just have a headache from the screen glow.
It makes Christmas more than just an opportunity to get presents. It makes it a real event.
I’d get into how commercialistic Christmas goes completely against everything the holiday is actually for—modern-day Christmas is about being proud and making each other proud of gifts we give ourselves, while the true Christmas is about one man humbling Himself to give gifts solely to us.
But I won’t. Because I think people should think about this on their own. Don’t let me analyze everything for you—look at this. I mean seriously look at it. How do you spend your Christmas? Stones or pebbles? Can you fight this fake Christmas cheer and realize that the true meaning of December 25th is the celebration of God’s humble love towards the human race?
Assembling your jar isn’t easy, and making that list of priorities, it can be easy to give everything (even that Hallmark rendition of Rudolph you’ve seen seven times a year ever since you were born) a purpose. Don’t do it. You know what’s going to benefit you and, ultimately, benefit God.
I’ll be the one to pick up the first stone.