December 2009, originally printed in 280 Living, Birmingham, AL
“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat; please put a penny in an old man’s hat; if you haven’t got a penny, a half a penny’ll do; if you haven’t got a half a penny, then God bless you.” –Traditional Christmas Carol
For some reason, this song echoes in my head every year. It’s not a very popular song, at least not nowadays. I do not know where or when it originated (I could look it up on the Internet, but to be honest, the information would be just article filler that I surmise none are really interested in anyway—but if you are, please feel free to google “Christmas goose song”). To me the song is about recognizing that the season of giving is upon us, that we are to be about giving to those in need, or being able to recognize yourself as one in need.
The Christmas season is indeed about need, but personally, the statement I find myself repeating the most is “I need to do this, I need to do that; I need to go here, now I need to go there.” Of course, the most common phrase at Christmastime is, “What do you want?” In my house, no one seems to know yet (my brother and sister-in-law started asking a month and a half ago—I finally sent them a movie and a book idea this past weekend). “What do you want?” I don’t know—honestly, I don’t know. What do I need? Well, there’s lots that I need—a new roof, diapers and wipes, a large bin to hold all of my eldest son’s kindergarten school work. But what do I want? Maybe the better question is, “What do I want Christmas to be?” Now that conjures up some serious thoughts.
It seems that every year, the same images come to mind. I envision Christmas Eve, fire blazing in the fireplace, lights out in the house except for those on the Christmas tree, sitting on the sofa with soft Christmas music on, cup of decaf coffee or hot cocoa (depending on the volume of gifts that need to be assembled and whether or not I plan to attend the late night Communion service at church, which I always hope to do but never do because of the blasted items that need to be assembled). I envision walks around the neighborhood or drives throughout the community with my family looking at Christmas lights and decorations. I envision bowls of soup or gumbo shared before Bowl games (the lesser games). I envision cookie dough making (and eating), adding sprinkles (a must), baking, and sharing with neighbors. I envision slower drives to work while listening to the all-Christmas Carol station on the radio. All of these things are my hope not to miss Christmas. I do not want to miss Christmas. Christmas is coming, and I do not want to miss it. And yet, every year, Christmas Day late afternoon rolls around and that faint vague feeling creeps up, “I think I missed it… again.”
Hmmm. Not this year. Look what I’ve done. In the previous paragraph is a list; a list of what I want for Christmas; for what I want my Christmas to be about. I will pick one, and I will do it—I will. I will find myself not trying to pack too much into the season, but picking one (maybe two) and enjoying the season while I do it. Maybe the cookies to the neighbors—that one sounds really fun. And if while I’m walking to my neighbor’s house and I find a penny on the ground, I’ll put it in the old man’s hat (or at least a quarter in the Salvation Army bucket—I just love that bell).
I challenge you to answer this, to see what you envision when you ask yourself, “What do I want? What do you want I Christmas to be about?” Pick one (maybe two). Keep it simple. Do it. And breathe as you go.
Maybe even hum… “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat; please put a….”
To talk further about Christmas or the things you desire for yourself or others, please contact LifePractical Counseling for your counseling or consultant needs. You may reach us at 205-807-6645. Paul Johnson is a professionally licensed marriage and family therapist and professionally licensed counselor in the state of Alabama.