A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with an illness that I know I have had for some time. Is this illness contagious? Yes. Is it fatal? It could be, depending on how far advanced it becomes. Do I have to change my lifestyle? Yes. Is there a cure? I think so.
The illness is what I call the Christmas Crazies. I diagnosed myself with it a few years ago and I've been trying to overcome it ever since.
So what are the Christmas Crazies?
The Christmas Crazies are brought on by ... Christmas. The disease reappears each year before Thanksgiving (sometimes as early as September) and fully involves its victim by Black Friday. Its symptoms include both compulsively impulsive and planned obsessive spending, high degrees of frenzied baking, making things, shopping, decorating, party-going and eating. Christmas Crazy victims feel an uncontrollable urge to drive to the mall or some other store, send Christmas cards to everyone in their address book, decorate every room in the house or even make their own wrapping paper. They also make sure that their houses are the the best-lit on the block, even to the point of causing power outages. Other symptoms include high irritability, which is often seen most when driving or waiting in long lines; zoning out; obsessive list making, and the need to stay up late at night to work on projects. Those who suffer from Christmas Crazies may even become severely irritable or depressed if a lack of money or time prevents them from fulfilling these deeply felt urges. Christmas Crazy victims may call in sick to work when they are not ill or may skip church in order to sleep in or work on projects. Not all Christmas Crazy victims exhibit every one of these symptoms but most suffer from at least two. My symptoms include obsessive baking and making things, although I haven't tried making my own wrapping paper - yet.
So what is the cure for this onset of craziness that usually ends in a heap of exhaustion on December 25? Practicing the discipline of simplicity. According to www.renovare.us, "Simplicity is the joyful unconcern for possessions we experience as we truly 'seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness' (Matt 6:33). Persons living in simplicity realize freedom from anxiety by viewing possessions as gifts from God, remembering we are stewards to care for God’s gifts to us and making our goods available to others. Simplicity is a declaration of war on materialism and it reorients our lives, perspectives, and attitudes."
Simplicity is lived out in the Christmas story. As we see in the scripture, the Holy Family did not have many possessions. They even had to resort to delivering the baby Jesus in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn. Yet, Joseph and Mary were both righteous and obeyed God by allowing him to use them to bring his son into the world. It is an amazing story - one that convicts and encourages me every time.
Although poverty forced Mary and Jospeph into a simplistic life, they did not resent it. We as American Christians must strive to practice freedom from materialism. As we attempt to do this throughout the year with the help of the Holy Spirit, I believe we will sense a spirit of freedom by Christmas that we have never previously felt. Somehow the bondage of having to do so much and buy so much will be lifted and we'll enjoy the holiday for what it is - the birthday of Jesus. I am going to strive toward this for next year (because I've already blown it this year). Will you?