Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My "I Hate Christmas" List

I don't hate Christmas.  Not really.  Much.

After all, it's the birth of Christ we're celebrating.  God incarnate is always good news.

But there are certain things that drive me crazy in this mixed up season of gifts, carols, pageants and malls.

Here is my list of things I hate about Christmas:

  1. BUYING PRESENTS:  I consider myself a fairly giving person, but buying presents is a task I despise.  There's just nothing fun about it.  It's not the crowds that get to me -- I actually enjoy that -- it's trying to figure out what fits a person and being absolutely certain that it'll be the wrong thing.  Then there's the question of who will get a present and who won't (my resources are not unlimited).  In a perfect world, I'd make all the presents to show my deep affection for each recipient -- but I never got past toothpick sculptures in grade school.  Aside from all that, the whole gift-giving thing seems contrived and pointless -- unless you're going to give me gold, frankincense and myrrh.  By the way, I put Christmas Cards in the same category -- mostly because I get mine sent out somewhere around March.
  2. WRAPPING PRESENTS:  Don't get me started.  If you've ever seen Charlie Brown's kite after an encounter with a tree, you can imagine how the presents I wrap look.  Only with a lot more tape.  I'm convinced this is a plot to put the decoratively challenged in their place.  Not that anyone would know because the next thing I'm bad at is actually getting presents in the mail.  I just sent my sister's gift yesterday -- for Christmas 2006.
  3. ENDLESS CHRISTMAS TUNES:  How many times do we have to listen to "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"?  Or "Santa Clause is Coming To Town"?  Nearly every radio station that's not designed for teenagers plays these "classics" 24/7.  Again, I suspect a plot.  We'll buy anything just to make it stop!  Worse yet, most of these songs just mention Christmas -- they don't ever talk about Jesus.  They're sort of the secular Christmas variety, which is okay if what you're celebrating is the idea that you can celebrate.  Worse still, I find myself humming these things throughout the day!  Right now, Bing Crosby's "Mele Kalikimaka" is running through my head.  Help!
  4. WINTER SONGS IMPERSONATING CHRISTMAS TUNES:  Admit it, you think they're Christmas songs, too.  Think about it:  "Walking in a Winter Wonder Land,"  "Jingle Bells..."  They have nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with Christmas at all -- not even Santa.  It's not their fault, mind you.  They're just tunes celebrating the beautiful winter weather, but they have been found guilty by association with Christmas.  If you don't believe me, just try calling in a request for "Frosty the Snowman," on December 27.
  5. SANTA CLAUS:  I bet you do, too.  Who wants to have some guy who can see you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake AND who's keeping a list and checking it twice.  Sounds like a nightmare version of God.  No wonder the children always cry when you put them on his lap.  Of course, with the energy crisis, we just might want to get some coal in our stockings...
  6. SCREAMING CHILDREN ON SANTA'S LAP:  I'm guilty.  When my kids were young, I tried to get at least one shot of each on Santa's lap.  My lasting memory is the picture I paid $5.00 for.  It shows my child struggling to escape Santa's clutches.  It's not just my kids, either.  Two days ago I was in the mall and saw a young mother coaxing her screaming toddler onto Santa's lap.  I felt for everyone involved but at the same time had to ask, "Why do we do this to our children and ourselves?"  If it's merely to employ Department Store Santas, I'm sure we can find more meaningful work.  About an hour after seeing that screaming child, I saw Santa enjoying some down time.  He was reading, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
  7. SNOW AT ALL THE WRONG TIMES:  Yes, I love snow.  But it can be a good thing gone wrong.  Like, when it snows all day SUNDAY.  Don't they know that this messes up church?  That's a bad thing for a pastor!  It's supposed to snow on Friday night.  That keeps kids from going out partying too much and makes for a quiet Saturday.  But not Sunday!  Not only does it mess with attendance, but it interferes with things like Pageant rehearsal.  About the only time worse than Sunday for snow is Monday morning.  There's nothing like hearing that you have yet another full day with the kids.
  8. REHEARSALS:  It's hard enough trying to figure out which kids will be in the pageant.  Somebody will always be miffed that they did not get the lead role even if they don't know how to read.  What's worse is trying to schedule rehearsals.  Kids are just too busy!  Even rehearsals after church cut into their other activities.  It's like herding cats.  So, by the end of it all most of the kids have an idea what they're supposed to do but really can't remember their lines.  Yes, it all works out somehow, but I keep losing hair over it.    Then you get into other scheduling issues, like trying to find servers for the Christmas Eve services.  Try to fit in a rehearsal for the big services, and just wait to hear the howls.
  9. THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS:  Bah humbug!  What spirit of Christmas?  What does that even mean?  I am having a hard time forgiving Dickens for this phenomenon.  I mean really, what is the Christmas Spirit?  Giving presents?  See number 1 of my list.  Is it giving to the less fortunate?  Why?  Why should that be the Christmas Spirit?  I thought that was the Spirit of God.  I thought that was something Christians were meant to do all the time.  I suspect the Spirit of Christmas is merely a way of saying, "If you act nice during this one season, you're allowed to be a mean jerk the rest of the time."
  10. "KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS" CAMPAIGNS:  These annoy me.  Because in the end, those of us who worship God in Christ will always keep Christ in our hearts regardless of what the rest of society does.  And harping on the rest just makes us sound like angry busy-bodies rather than people filled with God's love.  Rather than nagging others that they should say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays," it would be better if they simply praised God for the blessing of the Incarnation.  
That's my list.  There are a lot of other things I don't like about Christmas, but if I stated them all, you'd just think I was an angry nag.  And really, I love a lot about this time of year.  But don't expect a gift from me.