The time between the last week of November and the first week of January is profoundly paradoxical. On the one hand, it frames various western religious and civic festivals, which at their best, celebrate our deepest sacred values – things like gratitude, humility, compassion, generosity, family, and so on. There’s probably more God talk, or at least spiritual references, during these months than at any other time of year.
But as you well know, also during this same time frame some of our baser values are exploited – greed, commercialism, selfishness, and the like. (If one more Black Friday ad coursed through my various info feeds, I swear I would have tossed my precious iPhone out the window…) If economic news and analysis is a fair barometer of shared public values (and as these December weeks unfold, we’ll be reading, seeing, hearing a lot about this) one develops the distinct impression that it is our bound civic duty to spend, spend, spend during the ho, ho, ho season to keep the capitalist engines humming at fever pitch.
Now, I’m in favor of a healthy economy, but there’s a whole lot more palaver about our spending patterns than, say, our giving patterns, and the truth is, the balance between these competing values reveals the real condition of our soul. So, for instance, rather than spend, spend, spend, why not give, give, give?
Here’s an invitation: as a present on behalf of the common good—for yourself, your neighbor, and God—in this emergent holy season, do something in the giving department that stands outside your normal routine and behavior. Sure, have a blast with parties, friends, and presents. But throw in a real surprise, a generous extending in cash or stock or time or energy and love. Especially love. At some moment in these next weeks be an extravagant lover. Make this a Christmas season to remember…