It starts with the ads – subtle and not so subtle reminders that you are being measured this Christmas. Will your gift be good enough? Will your gift show true love? How will it compare to other people’s gifts?
If you are separated or divorced, you know this pressure first hand. You are wondering how your gift at Christmas compares to the gifts from your ex. A competitive drive kicks in. You spend a little more than you should. You probe to find out what the other parent gave as a gift.
If you are dating, you know this pressure too. It is not about giving the gift; it is about how you compare to boyfriends or girlfriends past. You want your gift to show that you are superior to the old flame.
When my kids were small, I wondered how we were doing compared to the neighbors. My nightmare was to have the kids come back home the day after Christmas and say, “Sam got a complete Star Wars Action Figure set. I only got Luke and Han Solo.” Once I found myself driving to Columbia and Florence on the same day looking for a particular Power Ranger toy because we had been tipped off that a friend was getting that toy. We didn’t want to fall short as parents (I found it too, after beating back a horde of desperate mothers at a Target).
Even Christmas meals turn into competition. One lady told me she refused to make cobbler for Christmas because she knew her sister-in-law’s was better (let me be the judge of that – please!). We check to see if our casserole was eaten all up and feign pity at the poor soul whose store bought pound cake lays untouched.
There is competition at Christmas – it is a reality. It reared its head when Herod wanted to find Jesus and kill him. If there is one thing a king can’t stand, it is competition.
But Jesus came to set us free from the need to prove ourselves better than someone else. The truth is there is no competition: we are all sinners, needing grace. In the race of sin, there are no winners. Jesus came not to be pit us against each other, but to set us free to live, following Him.
Make this Christmas not about beating the competition; make it about traveling with the one who bids us, “follow me.”