By Bruce Stambaugh
For much too long already we’ve been enduring an avalanche of cutesy commercials and gimmicky advertisements foisting an assortment of products from A to Z on us. Each one is pitched as the perfect Christmas gift to give.
Catalogues, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet, even emails push various products for us to purchase for our loved ones. I do my best to ignore them. It’s a bold statement from someone who spent part of his career in marketing.
I understand why all the product promotions are done. Retailers often need productive holiday sales to ensure a profit for the year. I certainly don’t begrudge them for trying.
At my stage in life, I find greater joy in a brilliant but brief sunrise than a glitzy ad. Sometimes on the coldest rural Ohio mornings, the pinks and blues that quickly morph into warm oranges, reds and yellows stir me more than any new car wrapped in a big red bow could.
Joy comes in many packages if we just take the time to notice them, even on the grayest of days. Amid this entire holiday hullabaloo, I have to remind myself to stop and take a deep breath.
Advent is the perfect time to slow down our lives, not speed them up, rushing around trying to find just the proper gift. It might already be right in front of us.
I speak from experience.
When our daughter, now a mother with young children of her own, was two-years old, she would stand on the kitchen counter at our home in Killbuck, Ohio. Together we would watch the birds devour the birdseed we had put out for them. Young as she was, Carrie could correctly identify each species.
Teetering on the rim of the Grand Canyon is an awesome feeling. Sharing that incredible vista with a person who is viewing it for the first time is even better. When it’s your son, seeing his smile is priceless.
When my wife and I braved a frigid winter’s night with a dear couple to search the dark sky for a rare comet, I was cold but hopeful. We rejoiced when we found it, quietly celebrating the event together. No words were needed.
When you go in search of a Snowy Owl, a rare avian visitor to our area, your hopes are high. Even when the bird can’t be located, the camaraderie of other birders on the same search makes up for the whiff. There are no wild goose chases in birding.
When you receive a hand-made card that includes drawings of a cardinal, an eagle and a blue jay, all appropriately colored by your grandchild, you know you are loved. You keep and display that precious gift where you can see it daily.
When a long-lost relative unexpectedly contacts you, you rejoice and reconnect with someone you may have only ever met once or maybe never. Surprise gifts rule.
When you stand in line for an hour or more to offer your condolences to the family of someone you have never met, you are blessed by the grace and appreciation shown to you by the mourners. Even in grief, great gifts are exchanged.
Advent is a time for reflection, renewing, remembering. It is a holy gift, freely given, gladly embraced.
The din of commercials not withstanding, Christmastime models what it means to give and to receive. I wonder what gifts will unwrap themselves for you and me today.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013