Our society just made a complete 180 degree turn around from thinking about what we are thankful for to thinking about what we want…NO, I mean what we want to give! Isn’t that what it seems like though? We go from the focus of thanksgiving directly into spending time figuring out how to satisfy one another’s wants. This year, I am taking my best shot at trying NOT to do that. I recently realized how serious I needed to work on this when my daughter decided to ask for a Wii game system for Christmas. She started out saving her own money for this popular gaming toy, but soon realized that it was well beyond the reach of her 13 year old budget. After doing some odd jobs and a large babysitting job, she had saved a good deal of money, but not even half of what she needed to purchase the system, the remotes, and a game or two. So, she decided that this would be the big ticket item on her Christmas list. When she approached her frugal father about her wishes, he explained to her that it was a nice thing to ask for, but not to get her hopes up. Santa has two kids in college, one of whom is graduating right before Christmas. Knowing that funds would be tight, he tried to direct her attention to other things but she began to get a little testy with him. As I listened to the demands of our 13 year old, it dawned on me - the Christmas wish list has become a shopping list and I decided that I would need to do something to change our perspective on this big holiday of giving.
As I reflected, the season of Thanksgiving was still forefront, and the word that kept coming to mind was contentment. I thought about the Apostle Paul and his words on the subject.
Philippians 4:12 says:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
How could I possibly teach this to my children? How could I live by this myself?
These questions filled my head for days. I wonder how Paul would have sounded if he had the attitude of my children, or even me. Keep in mind this is a man who spent more time in jail than he did out of jail. And he was serving the Lord, not working for himself. That in itself is challenging enough, but add to it his attitude of contentedness instead of entitlement. He wrote letters of all different types to all different people and they are recorded in scripture. Funny, I have not read anything that sounds like this:
“Dear Believer’s at Philippi, Would you hurry up and see what you could do about my situation? I have been in this prison for way longer than I expected and I really don’t deserve to be here at all. It is a dump and I don’t even have cable t.v. It is about time that I get what I deserve…after all, I have been serving other people all of my working life!”
Can you even imagine?
How many of us sound this way? Not just on our Christmas list, but in every day life?
As a result of my evaluation, the gift list of my family members may not include anything over $50. We are sponsoring an elderly person at a nursing home, we are taking part in toys for tots, we are sending a box to a serviceman overseas, and we will try to get to the homeless shelter to serve a meal. All of our children will participate in these things. And we will continue our thanksgiving realizing that not only should we be content, but thrilled with the blessings we already have. And the Christmas gifts that we give to one another will be totally out of love, not entitlement!
Merry Contented Christmas!