Christmas is not a competition.
I know this full-well and have known it for a long time. And it is a truth that I’ve unexpectedly bumped into again.
This year I will receive one main package, a package whose contents I already know. So as I looked at my Christmas tree with its packages beneath, an unexpected swell of discontent arose within me.
That surprised me. I want the gift being given. I know what it will cost the giver. Gratitude should be the response. Yet as I thought of all the gifts that will be given, I felt cheated instead.
But Christmas isn’t a competition. When did I lose sight of that? Yet in the midst of the shopping and advertising and gift-giving—especially with the abundance we enjoy—it is easy to forget. It’s not about the best light display or the biggest Christmas tree. It’s not about how coordinated your decorations are or how many parties you’re invited to. It’s not about how many gifts we get or their size or their price tag. It’s not even about how many gifts we give.
Rather, it is about gratitude. Gratitude for the ability to give, gratitude for the ability to receive. Perhaps that’s one reason Thanksgiving sits so close to Christmas here: It’s not supposed to be a day to give thanks before consumer madness kicks in, but rather the first day in a whole season of gratitude.
So forget the competition. What others have is not what’s important. Rather, give thanks to God for what is before you, whether it is small or great, much or little.
That is the spirit which allows us to celebrate Christmas all year long.