I don’t know about where you live, but Christmas is starting to seep around the edges everywhere here. In the last week, I’ve gotten two Christmas catalogs in the mail, letting me know that I need to get a jump on the decorating and gift buying and plans for cooking.
Today at Target, while I was hunting for mosquito repellant (still a dire need where I live), I wandered lost among the Halloween costume aisles hoping to find a last remnant of an outdoor section where the repellant sat all summer. And that’s when I stumbled upon an entire section of Christmas cards. In September.
My husband and I haven’t figured out Thanksgiving plans, and already, marketers and merchants are subtly trying to convince me that I’m almost behind the curve on Christmas planning.
All of this got me to thinking about what these retailers are attempting to accomplish, and I think it’s this: If they can make me worry that I may end up with a “less than” Christmas, one that’s less than my neighbors or friends or even the Christmas I imagine in my mind, I’ll buy a bunch of stuff now to make sure I at least look like I’m having a “more than” Christmas.
When the world makes us feel “less than”
I’m not sure when I first learned the less than symbol (<) in math (you know: 3<4), but I’m guessing it was at a pretty young age. You know what else I learned about “less than” at too young an age? What it meant to feel less than.
I was less strong than the bully who punched me in the stomach when I was four. During PE in elementary school, I was less a runner than one of my smaller, faster friends, who completely dusted me in a race. It would take me 25 years to rediscover my love of running.
Then in middle school, well, let’s just say they were three years of my life feeling “less than” in every single way possible.
You must have experienced it, too. Your grades were less than. Your bike was less than. Your Christmas gifts were less than. (By the way, be sure to see Monday’s post for a lovely tribute to an aunt who loved giving special Christmas gifts, even though they were less than what neighbors’ kids got.)
And then you grew up, and your SAT scores and GPA were less than. Your college major was less than. Then your career choice and on and on and on. Have you felt it?
Retailers feed on that feeling from the time we’re old enough to talk and ask for what we see on TV commercials. And it never stops. I mean, doggone it, even if I don’t have a grand door to my house like the one pictured on the front of that catalog, I’m going to spend a lot of money decorating like I do have that door and that house and that lifestyle and that perfect family Christmas. At least, that’s what retailers hope I will do, and they hope everyone else around me will, too.
Listen, I know it’s really too soon to think about Christmas. You may not even know what you’re having for dinner tonight, much less what your kids will dress up as for Halloween. But may I ask a favor of you?
When those Christmas catalogs start pouring into your mailbox, will you stop and take a few moments to acknowledge the ways they make you feel less than. Or maybe it’s not even holiday catalogs that trigger those feelings. Maybe there are other areas of your life where you feel less than (like the good aunt who has no children, the last beautiful one of your friends still left waiting and hoping to meet that special someone, the hard worker who has no job, or the hurting person who has followed doctor’s orders and still not seen the healing come).
God wants us to be humble, but He doesn’t want us caught in a trap of “less than” because we can’t flourish for Him when we’re stuck in that trap. So as you face down what makes you feel less than, just remember what’s coming. Think of whose coming we will celebrate at Christmas. For He is the “greater than,” and He loves each one of us, even on those days we feel less than worthy.
Are there ways you feel less than? I’d be honored to lift up your struggle in prayer during this season. Just post it in the comments below (you can even sign in anonymously). Or email me your struggle, and know that I’ll be lifting it up to the One who is greater, the One who can triumph over all of our less thans.