We accidentally sent a package to our old house. It contained Christmas pajamas for the kids. These pajamas were critical to operations in the Hannon household. See, we needed them for a cute Christmas picture.
Our first attempts at obtaining this sacred package involved a call to the store. After minutes on hold and a merry-go-round conversation (the type of discussion that is verbose without accomplishing anything at all), we were told to call FedEx. The discussion with FedEx was more fruitful, but it left us with the option of canceling the delivery and thus the order and thus the sweet deal Kate worked out for the beloved pajamas OR retrieve the package from our old house. I voted to cancel the order. Kate voted for me to get the package from our old house. Guess who won?
I called our realtor and asked if she would reach out to the new owner of the old house to warn them of the ever-so-important delivery. She did and we worked out an arrangement for me to pick the package up off the front porch. When an email indicated that the pajamas were delivered, I ventured to our old house to pick them up. I went on a Tuesday, but there was no package. So, I went back on Wednesday, but there was no package. And so, I went back on Thursday, but again there was no package.
At this point, I became angry – the sort of angry that feels completely justified and righteous in the moment, but is really irrational and inane. I resented pajamas. I hated pajamas. I fantasized about burning all the pajamas in my house. In my dreams dancing pajamas taunted and mocked me. My temper was beyond short. My wife and I began our own merry-go-round conversation. Forget the pajamas, I say. Go get the pajamas, she responds. Up and down, and around and around we go… nowhere.
I decided that I had spent too much time trying to acquire this package. I was convinced that nothing could be so important that I should drive back to that house to try to pick it up. I told my wife that the box could be filled with diamonds and stacks of hundred dollar bills and I still wouldn’t go back. I went on a diatribe about how meaningless not just these pajamas, but all pajamas are. She smiled and told me to pick them up on Friday.
I text old neighbors and see if they could help. I got back on the phone with the realtor. And then, I had a team of 4 people trying to obtain and secure that vital package. On Friday, we had the place surrounded. We took turns driving by, walking up to the door, and returning to our cars defeated. The other neighbors probably thought we were undercover cops keeping surveillance on the property. Nothing and no one went in or out without our notice. I became embarrassed that this was how I was spending my and other people’s time.
On Saturday, the pajama package appeared at church. When I saw it sitting outside my office door, I was not relieved. I was frustrated. I thought, is this really what Christmas is all about? Is this really how I and others should be spending our time? Is there anything in any package in all the world that is so important that it was worth that much effort and energy? Is a cute picture really worth all of that stress? Some small part of me said, Rejoice! You have the package. My heart said, Do not rejoice in this.
Fast forward to now…
I look around and notice that other people are stressed too – perhaps not over a pajama package but concerning other things. I hear complaints about the hundreds of cookies that have to be made. I listen to young families bemoan the hours of travel and countless stops that have to be made between Thanksgiving and the New Year. I overhear strangers trying to figure out when, where, and how to shop without getting caught up in the chaos. I listen as people grumble about trees and lights and decorations. I watch as people who are invited to parties roll their eyes and groan because they don’t have time to do it all. I hear a guy in Starbucks say to his friend, “Wow, you still go to church on Christmas Eve? We’re way too busy for that.”
And I realize that we have become slaves to the things that were supposed to be blessings. The gifts which we have received have become balls and chain. The parties which were supposed to be fun are now short-term stints in cells we’d rather not be in. The strands of light intended to brighten have weighed us down. We have more Christmas obligations in our lives than Christmas ornaments on our trees.
The pajama package has won, and we have lost.
So, I pray: Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free: from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee. O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom your captive people. Help us to rejoice, rejoice at your arrival and not at anything that arrives by mail. Amen.
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