Skipping Christmas – Part 7

Secret Santas and Yankee Swaps

It’s Sunday morning and we are having a heck of a storm here in Maine. Most of the churches in the area have cancelled services, but I still walked over to the Church for anyone that may still show up. (It’s all of 100 feet away.) This morning, seven other people joined me in spite of the weather and we had a great discussion about our Christmas activities this year. It seems that there are at least a few of us that are going to be “observing”Christmas while not overtly “celebrating” it.

One of the things that characterizes this subtlety is the amount of stuff that is being bought. It is also one of the biggest questions that people have for me when I tell them about my “Swiss” Christmas. How am I going to avoid buying stuff for Christmas? The answer is that I am not. It just has to have some meaning to me.

Very early on as Robyn and I discussed our Christmas plans, we decided that we would not be getting gifts for anyone. Almost as soon as the words came out of my mouth, exceptions were being made. First, we found that some people had all ready bought gifts for us and the kids. We decided that accepting gifts was okay, as long as those giving the gifts understood that we weren’t taking part. Any gifts that could be returned should be. We then decided that Bekah and Caleb should get some gifts as they are older and have always gotten gifts at Christmas. Even so, they would not be getting as much as they have in years past (even including the Funtown passes). Elwood is too young, so he won’t be getting anything from us. (Don’t worry, though. I know that he will be getting plenty from his grandparents. He won’t miss out on anything.)

We then had to decide how to take part in the annual Yankee Swap at my mother’s house. If we were going to take part, we would need to purchase three gifts of not more that $10 each – one for each member of the family at the party. If we were to skip the Yankee Swap, would it go against our intentions and actually draw too much attention to our cause? Plus, was it possible that it might hurt feelings in the process of making our point? Besides, this activity is more of a party game than an actual exchanging of gifts. So the answer was “yes”, we would be able to take part in the Yankee Swap.

After making this momentous decision, Robyn then confessed to me that she had all ready signed up to be part of the “Secret Santa” gift exchange at her work. Okay. Well, that was a commitment she had made prior to our big decision, so it was all right. She could still be part of that because it was part more about team building in the workplace.

But you know, I still think I might do it differently next year.

One of the people at church this morning told me that she was concerned about some of the drastic changes that have been made at the church. To her, it is important that the church maintain a certain amount of tradition so that people can have something to count on. Tradition gives people a sense of normalcy and builds community. My response to her was to say that, in my experience, the word “tradition” has often been code for “we’ve always done it that way”. But her words have haunted me all day.

I have felt for some time that some pretty big things have to change in the world. Traditions in my life have lost their meaning for the most part. But I realize that not everyone feels the same way that I do now. I recently read somewhere that true change in the world doesn’t happen through the political process. Politicians are notorious for putting a finger in the air and swaying whichever way the wind blows. True change only occurs if we change the wind.

I know I’ve been blowing a lot of hot air lately, but not enough to affect the weather.

As for Robyn and I this Christmas, we have never really gotten things for each other. We usually get each other tickets for a show or a night out. In other words, our gift to each other is to experience something together. Because her birthday comes in January, I usually couple the two gifts together. One year, we went to the opera. Another year, I bought tickets to go see Nine Inch Nails. This year, I hadn’t planned on getting anything. But as luck would have it, an event came looking for me. I bought tickets to see the Blue Man Group on tour in February here in Portland. (We saw them in Boston on our honeymoon.) And when I was buying those tickets, I noticed that one of our favorite bands is coming to Worcester, MA the night before. So Robyn bought me tickets to see the Foo Fighters. That’s all. No more gifts for us.

I don’t know. Am I the right guy for all of this? Trying to guide people on this path toward the Kingdom of God is hard. It’s tiring. It’s stressful. It’s frustrating. It’s difficult.

But I think it will be worth it.