Those two words just don’t seem to go together. I’m not sure you’d call it an oxymoron but for me the words are definitely incompatible. Christmas is all about joy and peace and love, and there right at the center is giving. Something about the word obligation seems to go against the grain of the central message of Christmas, yet there seems to be an obligatory thread that is woven through the holiday season.

Do you ever feel like you have to buy gifts for some people? You don’t really want to but you have to, or so you feel. It’s either because they gave you something or because you’ve exchanged gifts for years and stopping doesn’t seem like much of an option. Whatever the case it feels like an obligation and it takes the joy out of the giving.

When I want to give a gift it makes all the difference. When my gift to someone comes out of love and is a response it shifts from obligation to joy. Like most married couples (at least I assume this to be true) my wife and I exchange gifts at Christmas. Last year we tried something different and gave smaller, stocking-stuffer type gifts. We decided the gifts should have special meaning to the other person and so any little thing just wouldn’t do. While we didn’t have to follow a theme Jacque decided that my entire stocking should have a cool and meaningful theme. It was great fun to give…and receive.

We’re doing the same thing this year and so in my spare moments I find myself trying to be creative about what I’m going to give Jacque. It’s got to be right. Not an obligatory right but the kind of right that says I love you, you’re special and I took the time to find things that would express that in just the right way.

I wonder at this time of year how often we do things out of obligation? I’m not naive enough to believe there won’t be those things but I’m idealistic enough to believe there shouldn’t be. Isn’t it mostly a matter of attitude and thought? What would happen if you decided to approach nothing this holiday season as an obligation? What kind of difference would it make for you to view everything through a lens of joy and love and celebration? 

Christmas shouldn’t be another obligation. The entire spirit and attitude of Christmas should flow freely from the thankfulness we just focused on last week. SO, let it flow freely because Christmas isn’t an obligation. Christmas is a response!