On Boxing Day, a Saturday this year, Kristy and I headed out to reclaim a long-lost tradition of ours: boxing day skating.  We were unaware of the fact that just 3 miles from our apartment is the Pineville Ice House where they offer public skating year round!  To get there, we had to pass through a major commercial area in South Charlotte – shopping malls, lots of big-box stores, etc.

As we passed through what most uphold as a modern-day, mini Mecca, my heart hurt a little.

I understand that we live in a consumer driven economy and very smart people imply that this is a good thing and that I should be thankful.  I understand that a byproduct of this economy is that we have to put up with long lines at shopping malls and traffic jams entering the parking lot and several lanes of pavement in some parts of town.  And, I understand that having all of these buildings closed for one day (i.e. December 25).

But I couldn’t help but be a little sad that thousands of people were flocking back to Mecca after being banned from there for an entire 24 hours.  These worshippers were unsatisfied with the blessing they’d received just days before and made the pilgrimage back to the holy land in search of something, anything, more.

Are we really so desperate?

It could certainly be that I’m reading far too much into this situation and over-dramatizing a completely benign situation.  I’ve been convicted of similar crimes in the past and have yet to be reformed.  However, the unquenched longing that is represented by these traffic jams and gift receipts and incidents of road rage is altogether depressing to me.  I’m a different person than I used to be, granted, and the prospect of a “cheap” 42″ television would have perhaps called me to a great pilgrimage of my own.

So I am in no position to condemn….

I can simply say this.

This year was the simplest (read: fewest gifts under the tree, fewest days spent on the battlefield of the mall) Christmas that we have ever had. It’s also been THE most rewarding by far.  It’s freeing.  It’s enabled us to be compassionate and generous in other ways – not new ways, simply ways that had been concealed by our own selfishness in the past.

What would it look like for your family to try this?  Plan for Christmas in much the same way – save money, clear the credit card, however you handle Christmas, but instead of trying to outdo the annually-increasing precedents you’ve set for yourself, commit to buying one gift (at the most!) for your immediate family members.  Take the same resources and funnel them towards a family who may have nothing – buy them food, or gas for their car, or presents for their kids, or sheets for their bed.  Try it.  Just once.  See if it’s not the most rewarding Christmas that you’ve ever had.