Running on the treadmill of religion too often parallels the celebration of Christmas in our lives. The scenery on a treadmill doesn’t change; there is the knowledge that we are going through the motions, but boredom and monotony settle in quickly. Nothing new comes into view that might spur us on.
If we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth like a treadmill, the essence of Immanuel, God with the us, never comes into view. We see the baking, decorating, gift buying, party going repeat every year. The trappings may change somewhat, but the wonder gets lost in drudgery. We have to shop, have to bake, have to clean, have to entertain… just like last year. Little changes, and the wonder once associated with Christmas dulls or sparkles with artificial snow and tacky tinsel.
Others, however, choose to run outside. They expend energy as if they were exercising on a treadmill, setting either a comfortable pace or a more demanding speed. Yet they run a course that allows for sights as well as insights. The terrain changes, expanding the mind as the heart pumps and feet pound.
Instead of the treadmill approach to Christmas, I enjoy the freedom to experience the joy and hope of this time of year. The party could be a potluck gathering of friends and family. The gifts might be fewer, with time spent around a large puzzle worked on over 3 or 4 days. People of all ages can get involved in completing the masterpiece! Savor the time rather than worrying over having all the napkins match. Bake cookies and take them to another family, the local fire department or a lonely neighbor.
And walk outside to listen for the angels of old who announced the best gift ever. It could prove very liberating to get off the Christmas treadmill. Merry Christmas!