Jesus did not want it to happen this way.

Christians believe that Jesus’ birth was a divinely inspired plan to introduce God in mortal form to all of us. Here was God, but with arms and legs. Not surprisingly, his message reverberated throughout history and still shakes the world. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” he said. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Meanwhile, the limited supply of DVD players on sale at Wal-Mart for $29.99 is now gone. The company reported national sales Friday hit $1.52 billion, a one-day company record. Also, Patricia VanLester will be fine. The 41-year-old VanLester paraded into the Range City, Fla., Wal-Mart as soon as the 6 a.m. siren blew to commence the day-after-Thanksgiving sale, but she was crushed underfoot. “They walked over her like a herd of elephants,” her sister said. Paramedics found her, unconscious, atop a DVD player, while shoppers milled about.

We’ve said it before, but we really mean it this time: Christmas is out of hand. Were it not for the children who like it so much, we would advocate moving it to once every two years. But we just don’t have the hearts to snuff the twinkles in their eyes.

As has been the trend in recent years, the holiday began early again—the day after Halloween, to be precise. That’s about the time husbands and wives and single people begin discussing with parents and in-laws and grandparents and alienated first wives and drunk cousins and the abusive stepfather who’s going to be with whom for the blessed day. Hurt feelings? Are you kidding?

Meanwhile, the list of obligations just gets longer every year. There are the Christmas cards, the family gifts, the gifts for friends, the gifts for business associates, the selection of the tree, taking the tree home, the tree’s return to the lot when no one likes it, the decoration of the house, the manufacturing of the eggnog, the Advent calendar, the wreath on the door, the trip to see Santa, the wrapping of the presents, tickets to the Nutcracker, someone’s child’s Christmas pageant, the trip to Opryland to look at the decorations, stockings hung by the fire, Christmas Eve services (leave early to get a seat!), and then, by the time the day rolls around, a swift descent into mental exhaustion and nuclear family recrimination.

Have we said Christmas is the largest retail economic engine there is? Spending is said to be up 8 percent this year over last. Will record companies be able to rescue a decent year, what with all the downloading going on? Will price-point discounts in department stores be adequate to lure in shoppers for more pricey impulse buys? Did Jesus know his birthday was going to come to all this? Do we need a new set of questions?

Did Jesus know that, for 0 percent financing, you can get a three-year lease on a shiny new four-door Benz just in time for Christmas? But you must order now! Jesus, meanwhile, rode a donkey.

Therapists are busy because everyone is emotionally shellacked. The world’s Christians are walking around with rocks in their stomachs because their to-do lists stretch for three pages, legal-size. Drug and alcohol centers are booming this time of year because everyone’s looking for an out. Oh, but there is hope on the horizon. We forgot the office party.

We have become unstuck in time—a frenetic, anxious, spiritually bankrupt band of consumers stumbling zombie-like in a wilderness of credit card offers and refinances and ATM advances. We no longer enjoy any of this. We simply endure it, as if we must.

Pray yourself out of this mess.


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