I'm an 80’s kid, and I have wonderful memories of my childhood Christmases. Like most parents, mine did everything in their power to make Christmas magical for us. And it truly was magical. Whether we were driving around looking at Christmas lights, making gingersnaps, or opening presents, I know the way I view Christmas stemmed from my loving parents.
When I think of Christmas in the 80’s though, two things come to mind: hideous decorations and Cabbage Patch dolls. It’s funny, because the Christmas when people got in physical fights over Cabbage Patch dolls was 1983. I was four years old and isolated enough from other kids that Cabbage Patch dolls weren't on my radar yet. My brother, on the other hand, wanted one. My parents were worried because as soon as a store got new stock they sold out in a matter of minutes. Somehow, a family friend found two boy dolls when he was shopping on his lunch break. He called his wife and said he was going to get both of them -one for his son and the other for us just in case my brother wanted one. My parents were thrilled to find out they had secured a doll without joining in on the frenzy that was the Cabbage Patch craze. I got my doll later when I was old enough to care and when they weren’t so scarce. Take a minute to watch this clip from 1983. It’s amazing.
I know this wasn’t an isolated incident. Every year there is the “it” toy. In 1996 it was Tickle Me Elmo, Furbys in 1998, and Nintendo Wii in 2006. But the Cabbage Patch story is sort of the original Christmas frenzy toy. What’s funny, is there’s no accounting for taste. Sure there are people to look for trends early in the season to predict the popular toys for the year, but how some of these became the favorite remains a mystery to me. Cabbage Patch dolls aren’t cute, Furbys are extra creepy, and the Nintendo…well that was actually very awesome.
When you take a look at the video, there are some cringy things about it (and I don’t just mean the hairstyles). The extent people would go to in order to get a present for their kids should feel admirable, but instead, it’s kind of hard to watch. The greediness of the kids and the sort of “step on anyone in my way” mentality of the parents is unsettling.
It’s interesting, because we started to hear about shortages very early this year. The word on the street was, “Shop early before everything’s gone”. What’s interesting about that, is instead of that making me feel anxious, I felt relieved. I was happy that we’d have an excuse for not necessary having a desired items under the tree on December 25th. And I wasn’t about to go crazy stressing myself out shopping for Christmas in August. (That’s just not who I am.) COVID has sort of changed our expectations in some ways for the good. Getting anything we wanted used to be a little too easy. It’s okay to sometimes have to wait or even forgo something we want because it’s simply not possible or appropriate at the time. I like an excuse to take the attention away from all the gift-giving so I can actually enjoy Christmas.
When I saw the Cabbage Patch clip, I couldn’t help but think that there will always be something everyone wants at Christmastime that’s scarce. A toy or gaming system, but there’s no scarcity when it comes to the one thing we’re all actually longing for. God’s mercy, His forgiveness, His grace. They are all in perfect supply. God gives these things freely to anyone who seeks Him. We don’t have to wait in lines overnight or push ahead of others in order to have a relationship with God. He offers it to anyone. We don’t need a voucher and it doesn’t need to be put on lay away. It’s not one per customer and we can’t resell it. It’s free. But instead of simply stopping and receiving His peace, we get in line for something silly -like an ugly doll, to fill something inside us that was never intended to be satisfied with stuff.
Listen, I'm not suggesting we don't buy presents. My kids would be pretty disappointed on Christmas morning if the tree was bare and we said, "We all get Jesus this year!" And remember, one of the things that made Christmas magical for me when I was a kid, was an anticipated present finding its way under the tree. But that's not all that made it magical. And in little ways, in our quiet moments and in our conversations, I'll find a way to make it clear. Maybe it'll be just a whisper, but I pray they'll know the best truth -we all get Jesus this year.