I was always pretty certain that I understood the spirit of Christmas. I could get behind holiday music, eggnog, and the pungent aroma of live Christmas trees. I could hang stockings, bake gingerbread cookies and string lights. I’m delving into clichés here, but when do I not write in clichés? Were there ever a time when clichés become appropriate, ’tis now the reason.

Christmas also meant to me an unpleasant and unusually long time spent with family, an inordinate amount of stress devoted to finding expensive enough, thoughtful enough presents, and sickly anticipation of what I might get for myself. It was a time of alphabetizing gift receipts, wincing at bloated budgets, and wishing to God that there were some quiet corner of the house that I could disappear to.

Well, it’s my first Christmas as a Christian and I’m surprised at the changes. There’s been no holiday music playing at our house. I made one, maybe two batches of holiday baking. I still bought presents, but calmly and casually, riding whatever generous impulses bubbled to the surface, and without any of the typical accompanying stress. My parents are in town and I’m grateful to have them. Rather than hurriedly rushing from Christmas event to Christmas event– which can easily fill the entire break in New York City– we’ve stayed primarily huddled up at home, watching movies and playing board games.

I don’t want any presents.

No matter how unreligious you are, Christmastime becomes an infinitely more pleasurable experience when we feel and practice the true spirit of Christmas; a time of love and a time of quiet gratitude. Just as the Grinch’s did, our hearts, too, can grow three sizes as we exercise generosity and focus on serving others around this time of year.

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!’
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”


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