Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, must guide Santa through the fog to the rooftops in a sleigh laden with gadgets and trinkets to delight every child.
Elves must be up and busy. There are lists to be made and checked twice. It has nothing to do with naughty or nice. Everyone must have a gift. You can’t label a child “naughty” when, in his heart of hearts, he really wants to be nice.
Even Santa can’t risk that, no matter what the song says. Jump, elves; snap to. There are the parties to plan, the figgy pudding to prepare and the Yuletide log to get ready for the fire.
Bring out the Christmas carols. Lights must be strung, trees must be decorated, and fruitcake must be popped in the oven so it can age to perfection. There are endless shopping sprees and gift wrapping.
Layaways must be picked up and exchanged because, though the gifts seemed practical at the time, they are just not right now. What madness!
Who started this tradition anyway? I suspect it was the Joneses. You know the Joneses, that elusive family everyone has been trying to keep up with for the last 100 years. If the Joneses have it, we must have it too.
After all, Mrs. Jones is the fashion guru of the century. She knows the perfect wrinkle remover and teeth whitener, the right color of eye shadow and what colors and styles are in fashion – even before the season begins.
She lets you know what you need on your table and what your kids want under the Christmas tree. Of course, she never says anything to your face, but you are certain she has told all your neighbors what a slob you are because you are not tripping around in the latest high heels.
Then there are the Jones kids. They run around sporting iPods, iPads, cell phones, video games and drinking energy drinks to keep up with the media craze sweeping the country. Even the Jones baby is decked out with a plethora of gadgets and trinkets.
He has baby Einstein videos and earphones to keep him happy. His snuggly pajamas are brand-named and expensive as he sits in the latest car seat.
Mr. Jones has it all. He glitters when he walks. His shop is full of the latest tools, and his car is driven off the lot twice a year. He wouldn’t own a car that was not top of the line – Lexus, Mercedes, Hummer, Lamborghini – you name it, he is the first to own it in his neighborhood. Toys? He has so many he can only play with one for each day of the year.
Those are the Joneses. And I sit here figuring out how I can keep up on my meager budget. I would like to rebel, but what would the Joneses think? Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without all the trappings and fanfare. It’s tradition.
I think about ridding the world of the menace of materialism. It is a shame for the Joneses to have so much stuff when there are so many living in poverty – but then I remember that I too have my fair share of the niceties of life.
I have so much more than those who have lost their jobs in the latest economic downturn. I too have gadgets and trinkets a-plenty. I wonder: How many people look at me and think I am the Joneses?
What if all the materialism around Christmas was changed? What if we didn’t buy or sell things to decorate the house and the yard and buy gifts for everyone in sight? What would happen to many businesses? The woman behind the counter has a job because I went into the store to buy some shoes.
The layaway person has a job because I thought about Christmas three months in advance. It didn’t matter if I took everything back because the customer service person was able to maintain his or her job because many people, like me, do the same thing.
What if I didn’t drive my car to the store and to the post office 100 times? The gas station would go out of business. People need jobs, and the Joneses are able to provide those jobs because they know how to make money and invent ways to get what they want.
Furthermore, they help other people get what they want. If the wealth was taken away from the Joneses, we’d all be in the same sinking boat. Few would be able to feed their families. Personally, I am grateful to the Joneses for providing jobs.
But here is my dilemma: With all the buying and selling, people have forgotten what the season is all about. I, for one, think of Christmas as a great unnecessary burden instead of the wonderful commemoration of the Savior’s birthday two millennia ago.
After Christmas is over, I look at the piles of wrapping paper, the crushed boxes, the sagging tree and the dirty kitchen with a sigh of, “Was it worth it?”
I certainly didn’t get a reward equal to the effort I put into it. I know the reward isn’t the goal. It is making others happy – but that is just it. People are not any happier when it’s over. There is sort of an air of disappointment that hangs in the atmosphere as the TV parades Christmas at the Joneses.
I wonder if the Joneses are happier after they open their presents, or if they are searching, just like me, for a more rewarding feeling. Some of the Joneses do extra service; some give charity to strangers; some even give gifts to a needy family. I am sure the Joneses have a better feeling about Christmas than I do.
I am sure the needy family appreciates being remembered, but I wonder what they think the rest of the year as they struggle to make ends meet. Do they just look with envy at the Joneses and wait for next Christmas? I don’t know.
There are so many people who have been affected by the economic crisis of the last few years. So many people are out of work and don’t know where to turn. I need to label myself as a Jones and reach out to help, not just on Christmas but the other 364 days of the year.
I may not be able to provide a full-time job, but I can do something. I can become a true neighbor and find out how I can help. I can take of my plenty and share it.
No one likes to feel that they are a charity case. Give your neighbor a job sweeping your sidewalk to fill his car with gas. Give his wife a job watching your children for $50 to buy some necessities. Help organize a yard sale and add your clutter to the pile. That Christmas feeling will come as you tell them, “Keep the money.”
You have wanted to shed the clutter for years, and it was a service for them to sell it. Talk with your neighbor and offer to take her children along with yours to piano lessons (your treat) or baseball practice and invite them to car pool to church.
If you are really sincere about your desire to bless your neighbor, they will feel more like family than a charity project. Simply treat them as you would like to be treated in an hour of need.
There are chances for service all around. We just have to open our eyes to see. We have been trained to look with envy at the Joneses. We can’t see that others may see our plenty and wish they were like us.
Our eyes are often tuned into what we don’t have, so we don’t see what we have and could share. Make it a matter of prayer. The Lord will direct your ministry. We can be the Joneses in someone’s life.
Christmas is all about Christ. He doesn’t expect us to remember Him just one day a year. He expects us to be like Him all year. If we are like Him all year, we will have lots to report on His special day.
The gifts we give on His day will be more meaningful because they will not be token, I-need-to-give gifts but will be a true outpouring of charity to those we have served and have grown to love through that service. Remember, Jesus said, “If ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”