Material possessions not key to happiness

I recently heard from a friend who always writes me a long personal letter at Christmas. I was thrilled to receive her Christmas card along with her letter and a picture of her beautiful family.

For over twenty-five years, she has worked for a professional firm in a large metropolitan area. On many days, she dines with those officers and associates of the firm in the break room and it is during that lunch hour that she is privy to their discussions, giving her a window on their lives.

She listens while they chat about the latest purchases of luxury cars, contract prices for agencies decorating their million-dollar homes, updates on the best personal cooks and overseas journeys to exotic places.

She wrote that her mind spins as they throw out the lists of their latest purchases for Christmas gifts, and their bevies of notable contacts bringing invitations to sophisticated charity events with tickets at extraordinary prices. Yet in all the name dropping and talk of expensive purchases and exotic places visited, one member of the lunch crowd remains unsatisfied.

The woman she referred to is a full partner in the firm. Her husband is a CEO of his own company, she has children who are thriving in school, she owns a multi-million dollar home, and her family jaunts around the country skiing in Colorado or basking on the beaches of south Florida during the winter months.

Nevertheless this woman spends her time during the lunch hour listing the perceived tribulations in her life. She is exasperated over finding “premium help” to prepare for their annual Christmas open house. She is frustrated with the caterer because she deems his prices too high. She is anxious that her eldest child will not make a high enough percentile score on the SAT, and therefore her daughter may not be accepted to her university alma mater.

She is perturbed with her husband; he is “getting pudgy” and has made no effort to find a personal trainer for their gym at home. She is stressed with the dog groomer; his mediocrity gave her Pomeranian a stray dog look. She is irritated with the gardener due to his lack of expertise in trimming hedges and all those people are coming — people she wants to impress. She blames the water softener company for poor installation of her water softener. After all, she has had to spend extra money and time on treatments at the spa because her skin is so dry. Her last mentioned manifest worry was that she cannot find one outfit suitable for the governor’s Christmas ball.

Sadly, she has no time for God and has announced that her children can determine in their own minds about spirituality when they are grown.

My friend wrote that this complaining woman had really unknowingly given her a gift this Christmas with her verbal listing of grievances. My friend wrote: “As 2011 approaches, no matter how much any of us will ever have, or the value of our material goods or our status is in the world, I am thankful that Jesus Christ is the source of my abundant life! To me that is the essence of true happiness and that is the real spirit of Christmas.”

I read her letter and then looked at the card. Jesus’ words were at the bottom: “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Jesus was born in obscurity that night in Bethlehem. But he is far from obscure today; He is the savior of the world and the giver of abundant life for those who know and trust him.