I have reached that stage where it's hard to know what to put on my Christmas List. I have everything I need. If wanted something inexpensive enough to be appropriately requested for Christmas, I probably bought it when I needed it. In fact, just to make a reasonable list possible I try not to buy anything at all fun for myself in November or December, just so I can put the items on my list instead. And if buying for me is hard, finding anything my father or mother needs is almost absurd.
I had already received everything I really wanted for Christmas when my daughter came home to visit, and together we went to see my sister and parents in Duluth. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of my nephew (still in Japan), and siblings who weren't able to get there.
I have read that the number of times people wear a piece of clothing before discarding it has declined dramatically. "Fast fashion," they call it. (I wouldn't know. I'm still wearing my grandfather's beautiful pendelton wool shirt when it's cold.) Fast fashion is the exact opposite of the way we need to be moving as a society, if we hope for our grandchildren to survive long on this planet.
It's now well established by research that, once basic needs are met, greater wealth or a larger pile of belongings brings us very little additional joy. I've mentioned before a phrase I picked up from Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars. At first the colonists have to scrimp in every possible way, so they get in the habit of saying, "Enough is as good as a feast." (Maybe it's even better than a feast, considering how my stomach felt after excessive consumption of Christmas dinner.)
Jesus taught us the way that does lead to greater and longer lasting joy: Loving God, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Taking every opportunity we can manage to serve other people and build up the common good. This is not news to you I'm sure. But there are so many influences pushing us in the direction of materialism that it can be hard to hold on to our conviction. Still, deep down we know relationships are the most important aspect of our lives. May God grant us the grace to tend all our relationships lovingly.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Harries