Christmas Socks & Underwear
As presents pile up under the tree, excitement slowly builds because Christmas is fast approaching. I remember as a child growing up, we would try guessing what was under the tree, and who was getting what, and who had the most number of individually wrapped items, and who deserved to get coal, and all that fun stuff. We would go to bed each night eager for the morning, just because we were that much closer to Christmas morning, and the grand accounting of Christmas loot. Fun times.
Now as children there was the one present we dreaded most. Of course it wasn’t something we ask for. Nobody asks for this present. Yet somehow grown-ups think it is an appropriate present for Christmas. We are convinced Christmas presents should be special, not things you need everyday, things you could be getting any other time of the year. Christmas presents should be things you would be proud to show your friends and in the process, raise your social profile. And Christmas presents should get better every year. They should never be leftovers from years past, not outdated items off the discount rack. If you’re still using last year’s Christmas presents, if they haven’t been shelved or tucked away in some closet or broken or recycled by Valentine’s day, or Easter at the latest, there’s a good chance it wasn’t a real Christmas present … unless it’s a house or a car or a computer. You get any of those any time of the year, I’m sure you would care less what day it is. It’s definitely Christmas.
So when we get socks and underwear for Christmas, let’s face it, it’s not all that exciting … unless Christmas is the only time of year you get socks and underwear. But not likely. Now it has come to my attention that certain industries have turned getting socks and underwear for Christmas special. [Calm down.] I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the kind you see advertised in magazines at the dentist’s office and you flip the pages really fast, the kind you don’t mind throwing in the wash with the rest of the dirty laundry, ordinary, everyday, unremarkable socks and underwear. There should be a law against getting socks and underwear for Christmas. Just saying.
And yet, the special presents that make Christmas a most memorable time of year make more sense when you don’t have to worry about ordinary everyday needs the rest of the year. I can’t imagine what it’s like to get the latest toy or gadget or bling from a loved one at Christmas when I have difficulty making ends meet the rest of the year. What’s so exciting about a hover board or an iPad pro or a designer piece of jewelry that I would probably have to return it for cash to pay the electric bill, the water bill, rent, or buy food with? Christmas would be truly memorable then, but for all the wrong reasons. So when we plan on giving presents to people we love, we should stop to think about what the rest of the year must be like for them. A Christmas present is truly special when the sentiment behind it is boldly proclaimed and celebrated the rest of the year. And while ordinary everyday socks and underwear might not be anything you expect this Christmas, they can still be reminders of everyday care from those who love you. Unless of course, you shop for your own. And yes, I shop for my own.
When at this time of year we hear the familiar prophecies from Isaiah and Zephaniah and Micah of the birth of a long awaited child come to establish justice and raise up the fallen, who would one day rule and bring lasting peace to the land, who would subdue our enemies and restore us to glory, we might ask if these prophecies will ever come to pass. How much longer should we wait for their fulfillment? The book of Micah was likely written between 735 and 700 BCE—2700 years ago! It is true. We do believe God has already fulfilled these promises. The eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ, was born a child of Mary some 2000 years ago in Bethlehem of Judea. But we often speak of Christmas like it has not yet happened in time. We celebrate the birthday of the Son of God each year with rejoicing and gladness. But we don’t often celebrate the birthday of a loved one with images of them as a child, unless it’s a milestone birthday like 40 or 50, or they’re getting roasted, or pranked. And there’s still that awkward wish list of justice and peace for all, our enemies subdued, the righteous raised in glory, a ruler for us who would be both shepherd and king, and God’s exalted presence celebrated with due honor and worship. Some of that we would consider unfolding as we speak, while some others are woefully still unfulfilled.
And although we celebrate the coming of God to us in the flesh on Christmas, we also believe that God is already with us, has always been, and will always be. This is not some new mystery revealed. Nor is it something that happened a long time ago, and is repeated each year on 25 December. His name is Emmanuel, God-is-with-us. Always with us. On Christmas God gives us a present of himself, a present we have access to everyday of the year. Like socks and underwear. Which is still special if you like socks and underwear. A reminder of God’s love and care for us everyday of the year.
So this Christmas, when we give and receive presents, we should see them as signs of the love and care we should really have for one another everyday of the year. Our culture of gift-giving built on the business model seldom expresses our everyday care for the welfare of others. Instead, we are told the specialness of our gifts hinges on how rare and extra-ordinary they are, that there is a limited quantity available to us, and that the cost might prevent us from enjoying it beyond this one occasion.
According to ancient Jewish custom, temple sacrifices and offerings were special and took place at annual religious festivals. They were like Christmas presents. The detailed rituals and instructions set them apart from all others. People took the time, shouldered the cost, and gave their full and undivided attention to these acts prescribed by the law. But the letter to the Hebrews tells us there is something more acceptable to God than the temple sacrifices and offerings required by law. “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, … in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. … [But] behold, I come to do your will.” Doing the will of his Father was for Jesus an even more acceptable offering. Likewise for us, obedience to the Father’s will is not something limited to Christmas or some other special time of year. Rather, like Jesus, we should offer our obedience to the Father every opportunity we get, like ordinary and everyday socks and underwear. God desires above all the conviction, the attitude, and the way of life that proclaims each day our willingness to do his will.
In the gospel we hear of Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth after a visit from the angel announcing she would be the mother of God. Now we only hear about it happening this once. But I am confident she was accustomed to visiting her cousin and a few other people in their time of need, yet we never hear of those. It was already very much a part of her character to serve others. And if that sort of behavior is already part of our character as well, the occasional splurge on a present would mean so much more.
And if you cleaned your room everyday, I’m sure mom and dad would find a box of chocolates so much more enjoyable still. [hint, hint.]
Rolo B Castillo © 2015