The problem with Christmas in October

The first Christmas catalogue of the year arrived in the mail a few days ago. On the cover were the company's gift ideas in the shape of a Christmas tree.

“Are you kidding?” I thought. “It’s not even Halloween yet, and they think people are buying Christmas gifts already.” 

There is absolutely no way I can start buying Christmas gifts yet. I don’t have a moral objection to purchasing Christmas gifts this early, it’s just that I cannot hold onto the gifts until Christmas. It’s hard enough when the gifts arrive two weeks before Christmas to stop myself from promptly distributing them to the people for whom I ordered them. The only thing that can stop me is if I immediately wrap them and put them under the tree.

Christmas wrapping paper is a sacred seal that cannot be broken until after the Christmas Eve service. It’s like the sign at the bank that says, “Tellers cannot open the safe for 15 minutes.” Once a gift is inside that paper, it’s locked and only the passage of time will allow it to be opened. 

These early catalogues must be intended for people like my mother. She is a master at the game of year-round Christmas shopping. For example, she might see something in January and say, “This would make a great Christmas gift for your uncle.” 

“Christmas is almost a year away,” I respond as though she might have forgotten that fact. 

“I know,” she says, “but it would be great for him.” 

“What if the world ends before next Christmas?” I ask. “You would never get the chance to give him the gift.” 

“I suppose if the world ends before next Christmas we really won’t care about the gift.” Sadly, her response is more logical than my objection. 

When I was growing up, there was a cabinet in our house that no one but my mother was allowed to open. It was the gift cabinet. Any time of the year there might be a gift for you in that cabinet. It was the honor system that kept us out. No one wanted to spoil the surprise that comes on their birthday or Christmas. Worse yet, if I peeked I would know there was a new toy in there just waiting for me, but I could not play with it until I unwrapped it on the designated day. 

I don’t know how my mother could do it. I don’t know how she could overcome the temptation to give a present right after she purchased it. That’s because I’m more like the cat, dropping a dead rodent at the doorstep, saying, “See what I brought you? Do you like it?” 

I have to admit to my weakness, and avoid ordering those early Christmas gifts. If I start looking at the catalogues now, our gift budget will be blown by Halloween. Everyone will have their gifts, and after the Christmas Eve service there will be nothing under the tree.  

RJ Johnson

I have been a priest for 16 years.  I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010.  If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 10:10 AM, 10.20.2015