Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Hard candy at Christmas
"Did you mind?" I asked in surprise to my mother's memory.
She had just told me about a childhood Christmas. Her mother had taken her old doll, washed it, stitched together a new dress, combed its hair, and put it back under the tree as her gift. Her only gift.
"Oh, no, I didn't mind! It had a new dress," she said mildly. "We didn't have much in those days."
My mother grew up on a potato farm along with nine siblings during the 1930's. The experience has changed her life.
"After our Sunday school Christmas program, we each got a bag of candy," she recalled. "There would be hard candy and an orange. That orange was so good! We didn't get fruit in the winter time so it was a special treat."
I sat back in my chair, also remembering. I had grown up with the same tradition, but it's been discontinued today. Too many children dropped their paper bag of treats in a trash can because the bag only contained hard candy and an orange. They demanded chocolate and toys.
They remind me of Solomon, the Bill Gates of his day. Actually, Solomon might have been able to hire Bill Gates. He was that rich.
Yet this man wrote "everything is futile." He'd tried every pleasure in life, for he could afford them all. He'd explored every taste, every song, every amusement. When those proved lacking, he turned to achievements. He built houses and planted vineyards. He tried philosophy and education.
Solomon observed: God gives a man riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. (Eccl 6:2)
Imagine pursuing riches, wealth and honor and then not enjoying them. Imagine having more possessions than you can catalog, ever buying the newest and latest hoping for a new thrill. And then discovering it isn't enough. Hmmm, remember what you got, or gave, for Christmas last year?
The generation of the Great Depression learned something we do not know today, that riches and possessions and achievements and philosophy don't fulfill.
Solomon concluded that one thing counts: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.(Eccl 12:13)
With our current economic stumbles, this Christmas might look a little different than ones in the past. But if we keep an eye on what matters, we'll be OK.