Daly: Take advantage of a ‘very little Christmas' - Catholic Courier

Daly: Take advantage of a ‘very little Christmas’

This year we’ll be singing, “Have yourself a very little Christmas.” The lyrics have changed with the economy. Given our dismal economic state, generations of preachers may at last get their wish. Christmas will be less commercial. The celebration of the birth of Jesus will not be so materialistic. We cannot take much credit for this. (We don’t have any credit left anyway.) People will be downsizing their Christmas celebrations out of necessity, not a newfound asceticism.
 
My good friend, Msgr. Jack Myslinski, says, “Never confuse lack of opportunity with virtue.”
 
That’s true. We may not be able to take much credit for it, but this year we may finally do what we should have done all along: put Christ back into Christmas.
 
The great saints all recognized that sometimes we do things with mixed motives. Perhaps we are simplifying Christmas out of necessity rather than virtue. But, as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say, “Be good anyway.”
 
This crisis presents us with an opportunity for spiritual realignment. So here are some suggestions for having ourselves a very little Christmas: First, buy things that people need anyway. Buy stuff they will use every day. If they need a new mattress, buy one. Nothing is more appreciated than a good night’s sleep. They will think of you in their dreams.
 
People used to buy useful gifts. Remember getting socks and underwear? Second, give time instead of stuff. There probably are people in your life who you have been intending to “get caught up with.” A Christmas card may not be enough; there are probably a couple of people who would enjoy a visit. It does not have to be a dinner out. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Go for a cup of coffee and a good conversation. That will be a great gift.
 
Third, pay some bills. Nothing makes me feel better than knowing I am caught up on my bills. You could relieve somebody’s anxiety this Christmas by paying his bills. Then, instead of going into post-Christmas depression about all the bills, he will have euphoria because he owes less, not more.
 
So pay somebody’s electric bill for Christmas. Buy her a tank of heating oil. Make one month’s payment on someone’s college loans. You will feel good. The beneficiary of your kindness will feel better. And our economy will be much better with less debt.
 
Fourth, recycle. I don’t mean recycle at the dump. I mean recycle your stuff to others. If your niece or nephew has been admiring that clock on your mantel, give it to them. What’s the point of waiting until you die? Inspire them to say thank you now. They might actually start coming to visit. They might get to like you. Wouldn’t that be a great payoff for all that dust-covered stuff? Finally, fill up your time with real preparation for Christmas. Hang out in church instead of shopping malls. We have a lot going on. We have Advent. We have Mass every day and special penance and healing services. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day and Our Lady of Guadalupe. We have children’s choirs and Christmas concerts. It’s free. It’s good for you spiritually. You don’t have any money to spend anyway.
 
Perhaps necessity is pushing you to simplify this Christmas and make it less commercial and materialistic. But that’s OK. While lack of opportunity is not virtue, sometimes virtue can grow out of necessity.
 
Father Peter J. Daly is a columnist for Catholic News Service.

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