Ever heard this one? "Tis better to give than to receive?" Or how about this: "Friends are more important than money"? Maybe, "Remember the real reason for the season?" Whenever someone starts yammering away on the moral attributes of the Christmas season, like a bored middle school student I start to doze off.
I've heard them all before. Much to my chagrin, I choose on many occasions to ignore them -- shame on me.
At my church the other day we spent an hour discussing what to do during Advent. And while we came up with some fabulous ideas, none of them were entirely new.
Consume less. Love more. Give more.
This holiday mantra is everywhere. Even in some very ironic places, like commercials inviting you to purchase something. Everyone all gathered around the table, giving gifts, fake laughter in the background. Making it look like no one cares about themselves, all are invested in the lives of others. Then they slap a logo across the screen and tell you that you are somehow incomplete without whatever they are selling.
Tonight I watched a holiday show with my children. It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but we watched a 30 minute program with Santa, presents, and the same message about the true meaning of Christmas. It is better to give than to receive.
So why, then, if I hear this all the time, don't I live it out?
Why do I shrug off the message, flipping the channel as if the most ill-contrived, uncreative commercial in the world just threatened to suck off 30 seconds of my life?
Why, in my meeting at church, did we need to spend a full hour trying to savvy up this already brilliant and life-changing message, taking a few creative angles and doing everything possible to catch the heart of a congregation? Why did I already receive catalogues from Heifer International, World Vision, and others in the mail? If we all "got it" they would be happily out of business. Some of the few people who would love to work themselves out of jobs.
If we've all heard the message, shouldn't we have acted on it by now? Giving abundantly everywhere?
Sociologists, economists, theologians, and others often agree that the world is filled with more than enough food to fill empty stomachs. Gandhi was once quoted as saying, "the earth has enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."
I am no different than most. Sure, I muse about these ironies in a blog, and do my best to limit myself as often as I possibly can. But I consume, I shop, my kids have Christmas lists. I wish I had great holiday decor. So I hear the invitation to move differently though this consumer-driven world. I hear the call to be wisdom with my stuff. I know the real reason for the season.
But I also shop. I buy. I wrap. I give. I get. I get caught up.
Doing these things are not necessarily wrong, but when we consistently blot out the voice that says there is a different way to do them, it comes time eventually to act on it. To give differently. To wrap less. To buy for those who do not have. To get caught up in helping people live better lives.
So even though I hear the real meaning of this Christmas season all the time; even though I try to dress it up and pass it out like candy; even though I get a little bit bored by it at times; I still need to hear it. For I have much to give and there is great need in this world.
If you find yourself like me, wanting to trim it down rather than dress it up, here are a few GREAT ways to start this season:
1. Don't shop on the day after Thanksgiving. Just pass it by. You do not need a $30 microwave or a free DVD. You don't.
2. Check out the Advent Conspiracy 
3. Download this resource from the Center for a New American Dream "Simplify the Holidays Booklet" 
4. Check out the story of your stuff 
And remember, if you are anything like me, more than a little set in her ways, just because you heard it all before does not mean you actually know it. If I truly knew, I suspect I'd live differently than I do.
Tracey Bianchi blogs about finding a saner, greener life from the heart of the Chicago suburbs. She wrote Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet  (Zondervan 2009) and blogs at traceybianchi.com.