The day after Thanksgiving, nation wide many retail stores opened at six a.m. to lines of customers standing at the door. The "shop until you drop" stampede began. And that stampede will last late into the evening of December 24th.

The economic machinery primed us for this annual start of the nation's most intense shopping spree. The television advertisement blitz began well before November 27. The insert advertisements in the newspaper on the 27th weighed more than the news articles.

Christmas gift buying is critical in the retail business. The survival of many stores actually depend on the share of December sales they capture. Competition is so severe that many stores cannot pay their bills and make a profit from the sales of the other eleven months.

Two factors fuel this national buying frenzy: (1) what we want, and (2) what others think we want. Our wants commonly translate into several attitudes. "Because you love me, give me what I want." "Because I love you, I will give you your dreams." "Because we love each other, I must give you something--and I fervently hope it is what you want."

Love and wants become terribly entangled in each other. The situation is quite complicated. "If I give you the gift you want, does the gift prove I love you? If I fail to give you the gift you want, has my love for you failed? If my gift disappoints you, does that mean you are disappointed with my love? What if the gift you want exceeds my ability to give? What if I don't know what gift you want?"

The situation is even more complex. Some give gifts to express love. Some give gifts to avoid embarrassment. Some give gifts to create indebtedness. Some give gifts to manipulate.

For decades I had a "want list" of things. Deep within, I was convinced that happiness automatically would be enhanced by having the things that I wanted. Then I discovered (the hard way) what I call "the post possession blahs." The anticipation of having "the thing" was wonderful. Possessing "the thing" often was followed by depression.

As time passed, my "want list" of things grew smaller and smaller. One day, that list ceased to exist. The child, the young adult, and the middle aged adult never believed there could be life without a "want list" of things.

"What do you want for Christmas?" Such a simple question! Or is it?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 6 December 1998

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