The Present Problem

The end of yet another semester! The last few weeks of fall term are nothing but a cruel tease; how is anybody supposed to focus on the political theory of John Rawls or how to calculate eta2 when the promise of home-cooked meals and holiday festivities lay just beyond your reach? Answer: with great difficulty.

I find that now that I’ve gone away to college, the phrase “home for the holidays” carries a whole new meaning for me. All the Christmas preparations that go on at my house, from decorating the tree, to wrapping presents, to baking holiday treats, are postponed until I get home just so I can be there to help. My parents, brother, aunts, cousins, and friends all seem to have a renewed appreciation for me; since they don’t see me as often as they used to, my homecoming is like an added Christmas bonus. And the food…no disrespect to the SUB, but nothing quite beats my mom’s barbecue chicken. All these things I took for granted before going to college suddenly become more precious now that I spend most of the year away at school.

But let’s be honest, would I have been as excited to come home if my mom had not sent me a picture message of the pile of presents that was awaiting me?

Let’s talk about presents for a moment. Because as I write this post, there is an enormous pile taking up a quarter of our family room that is staring me in the face. A pile that I got to wrap the first day I came home. The following day, I spent hours wrapping the presents my aunt bought for my cousins. And there is STILL MORE TO BE WRAPPED. Makes you wonder whether the Grinch had it right when he took away all of the Whos’ Christmas presents.

So the question is, as our beloved Charlie Brown wonders, what is the true meaning of Christmas? If you looked in my family room, you would say presents and decorations. If you watch the television, you would think it was about tons of food and family get togethers. If you go out shopping, Christmas becomes all about big savings and special sales.

But wait, isn’t this holiday supposed to be commemorating the birth of our lord and savior? Shouldn’t we be wishing Jesus a happy birthday instead? My mom and I were recently discussing the “proper” circumstances in which to tell someone “Happy Holidays,” vs. “Merry Christmas,” neither of which truly imparts what the reason for the celebration is. This brought up the question of what Christmas even means anymore, and how we can keep the “Christ” in “Christmas.” During our second wrapping session, my four year-old cousin was pestering us, wanting to open presents, when my mom asked her if she knew who God was, and she said, Who’s that? In her little mind, all Christmas means to her is that pile of presents under the tree.

Now is a good time to think about what the season really means to you. This can take the form of quiet self-reflection, or reading the story of Christ’s birth in the book of Luke. It could even take a more active form, such as reaching out to a friend or family member to do a bible study, taking a neighbor some cookies, or donating one of your presents to a poor family. Think of a way you could celebrate this holiday that is true to the loving spirit of our savior.