A $1.1 TRILLION CHRISTMAS GIFT

Looks like everybody’s in the giving mood this Christmas. Two days before the deadline this week, Congress voted to approve a $1.1 trillion spending bill to avoid another disconcerting government shut-down. “Deck the Halls.” A few billion here, a few billion there, and suddenly with the proverbial speed of jolly old St. Nick’s “wink of his eye and a twist of his head” $1.1 trillion ends up on our national credit card. Not that we Americans should be surprised. The National Retail Federation calculates that by the time Christmas arrives, shopping Americans will have spent $616.9 billion (excluding autos, gas, and restaurant sales)—up 4.1% from last year. “Deck the Halls” again. It’s astounding how the numbers add up here in the wealthiest nation on earth, isn’t it? After all, our Founding Fathers declared “the pursuit of happiness” our inalienable right. And if happiness can be bought, we’ve got to be the happiest people on earth. But, of course, we’re not. Google “happiest countries in the world,” and you’ll discover a basketful of global surveys in search of the answer. But no matter which calculus you select, the embarrassing reality is that the U.S. doesn’t score high on any of them. (Although apparently Forbes magazine didn’t get the memo, since on its website it touts the happiest and least happy nations on earth solely on the basis of national wealth.) This is hardly a plea for poverty. But in the midst of this hyper-frenzied buying season, it is a quiet appeal to reflect on the values that matter most to us. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). How else shall we describe that Gift than “indescribable”? A Child in a foul stable, Where the beasts feed and foam; Only where He was homeless Are you and I at home. . . (G. K. Chesterton, The House of Christmas) We the homeless at last at home, eternal Home, in that Child. It is that calculus that declares this Gift “indescribable.” And it is that calculus that frees us from gnawing hunger for more. How? By consecrating the first moments of the day with a fresh prayer of gratitude “for His indescribable gift,” we discover that culture’s incessant clamor for more really does “grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” For “only where He was homeless are you and I at home.”

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