From Please Bless by Tanya Davis
I went to bed in my nightdress
dressed just right for prayers of righteousness
I had my hands clasped tight for this
and I did pray, I did pray
First the required content
the poor, the sick, and the haunted
finish with the things that I wanted
so as not to be bold, not to be bold…
Sometimes, it feels like I just exist to buy stuff. Like I’ve surrendered to the machine of commercialism and Christmas. Maybe I am the machine. If I’m not buying stuff, I’m not succeeding. If I’m not giving stuff, I’m not loving. If I’m not consuming stuff, I’m not really living.
Every year, we’re told if we buy and buy some more we’ll help the economic engine that keeps America running strong. But, the negative headlines about the economy persist. There’s never enough to go around. The income gap has widened. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
I don’t think my spending has helped the economy one bit.
Did you notice how the single moms on Facebook were hurting so bad this Christmas? I saw them as they smiled through the pain. Smiled bigger than anyone else. Women are so good at being pleasant, even when crushed beneath the wheels of life. We break our feet shopping for everyone. We kill ourselves bringing the party. Is everyone happy? Does everyone feel enchanted? If everyone doesn’t feel Christmas magic women have failed.
We bring the eggnog and Chex mix. Don’t forget the Worcestershire. (I never have Worcestershire.) Another year has passed and I didn’t bring the kids some figgy pudding. The recipe, which calls for brandy, cognac and rum, totally stressed me out. All that alcohol. All that money for something that probably tastes bad. It also requires grated ginger and fresh nutmeg. Are you kidding me? The stuff in the McCormick bottles isn’t good enough?
Suddenly, it’s me who isn’t good enough.
There are so many appearances to keep up with at Christmastime. For example, I bought my son some nice, over-priced burgundy pants to wear to the school Christmas program. It’s such a beautiful, old-world kind of event called Letters and Carols. The Catholics really know how to celebrate Christmas. I don’t think I will ever convert, but I am grateful to attend with my husband and kids week after week, year after year. As one of my Protestant friend’s wrote on Facebook:
“I enjoyed once again attending Christmas Eve Mass. The streets are deserted late at night, yet there were hundreds of people packed into the church. The bells are so welcoming. They do not skip church because it’s Christmas, but they flock to the church because it’s Christmas!
But, the burgundy pants. They almost ruined our lives.
“I cant believe you’re making me wear these pants!” he groaned. “They’re so tight. They’re so stupid!”
Tight and stupid are my specialties. But, Sullivan looked so handsome this year. Now 11, he thanked Santa for all the years. I love him so much. My girls, too. They will always be my whole world. And I buy and buy and buy to show them all this love. To give them what I wanted, but did not have. Besides, what if something happens and I’m not here next year? I try to pack a lifetime of love into every Christmas. Please don’t forget me children, even as I am yelling, “What do you mean you’re bored? Go play with your presents or I’m going to take them all back!”
Every year, we’re told if Christmas didn’t exist retailers would need to create its equivalent. Some 30 percent of their sales for the year come after Black Friday. Chasing dollars, chasing the perfect gift will help ensure the Christmas boom. Meanwhile, the minimum-wage employees abide in their own personal slump. Christmas sucks the soul right out of the low-wage retail clerk. They barely eek by and I feel complicit in their misery. Please bless.
Every year, we’re told that it’s better to give than to receive. I have always believed this, but then your kids give you a turkey baster, spin toothbrush and four black Sharpies for Christmas and you think maybe somebody left off the last part of that sentence. All these years it should have been, “It’s better to give than to receive a turkey baster, spin toothbrush and four black Sharpies.”
The neighbor situation is also humbling. The only people on my block who remember us at Christmastime are Jewish. Please bless. They have a giant Menorah in their front yard and thousands of brilliant blue lights on their house. Every year they hand out bottles of wine and boxes of peppermint bark. All the Christians (including us) are too busy buying stuff and investing in people we really like. We don’t have time to celebrate the spirit of Christmas with neighbors. We don’t know their names and perhaps we like it that way. But, this year, I decided to take my relationship with our Jewish neighbors to the next level. We went to their house on the second night of Hanukkah and gave them an Instant Ugly Sweater Hanukkah DIY Kit. They loved it! It made me happy.
Later that night, I considered bundling the kids up and taking them Christmas caroling. But, the moment fleeted as I pondered the intimacy and interruption of it all. What if our friends, their living rooms overrun with wrapping paper and laundry, didn’t invite us in for wassail by the fire? Clearly, I was born in the wrong generation. Also, what if I looked away while singing about the New Born King? What if my kids hated HATED me for making them carol?
Every year, the most joyous season of the year devolves into the holiday blues. No amount of therapeutic peppermint oil can help. Cranking about commercialism and Christmas is more acceptable than expressing what really bothers us. We are lonely. Our lives are marked by a lack of intimacy with God and each other. He brought me a miracle, but there was no one to tell. He who was tried and tempted; He who saves and forgives brought me mercy and grace for He is brims with empathy for His broken children. I am His broken child. I reach through the candy and lights, paper and stars, for connection, but find no embrace. I pray, please bless.
Please bless all whom I have ever loved, and help me Lord to love myself.
In this life, there are so many pews and stained glass windows; so many wreaths and trees; so many churches and parishioners; so many mangers and crosses. But, there is so little Christian community. We gathered and hoarded the crumbs of fellowship in our aprons. They defied the rich collective God intended for us. We sang of His great love, but it escaped us. We longed for His gifts, but only on our terms.
He forgave us, but we weren’t willing to forgive each other. We were committed to division instead of acceptance. When we saw someone suffering we looked away. We abandoned the people He put on our path in their ugly hours of need. They weren’t who we wanted them to be. Later, when we saw them dancing, we refused to join them. We have feared the very intimacy we craved and needed.
My friends, we were designed for so much more than this. We were designed for community — at Christmastime and all throughout the year. Please bless.
My knees, my hands, my chest
for guilt, for love, I beg please bless
I say my prayers, I genuflect
and if I do it right will you let me in
My deeds, my hands, this mess
in guilt we silence our questions
I say my prayers nevertheless
did I do it right, don’t you leave me yet
From Tanya Davis, Please Bless