I knew we were deep in it when I overheard a man wearily talking about the three different types of stuffing he was preparing for Thanksgiving (let the debate about stuffing vs. dressing commence!). His plan was to make something to please his new mother-in-law as well as his father. The final stuffing was his own preference, or as he referred to it, a “dealer’s choice”.
Many of us are hard at work pleasing folks this time of year. From gifts to cards… even where we decide to spend our holidays can be geared around the needs and desires of another. To please someone is to satisfy their needs or desires, sometimes at the expense of our own.
Churches get into the swing of ‘pleasing’ as well. I recall several pastors who have said to me over the years that during this season they try to have something for everyone! In my last church, we came up with the idea of doing a holiday hymn sing prior to the Christmas Eve service so that on that night, everyone’s favorite carol could be sung.
There is nothing wrong with pleasing others… unless it is making you miserable.
That guy with the stuffing seemed regret his decision to make three variations of the same dish. The woman at Target buying a ton of plastic for her children didn’t seem as jolly as that task would warrant. There were some Christmases when this pastor barely had the energy for Christmas Eve, let alone a full hymn-sing.
Pleasing others can be exhausting. Of course, the opposite isn’t healthy either. Those who work to only please themselves become mean and embittered.
It is no accident that during this “Pleasin’ Season” we tell the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Dicken’s Scrooge is a model of someone who initially only pleased himself. At the end of the story he figures it out, and his life changes not because he wants to please others, but out of an abundance of spirit. Scrooge on Christmas morning is an image of generosity which is in stark contrast with someone who is focused on pleasing others. The difference between generosity and pleasing folk is, well, as different as stuffing and dressing.
As you go about Advent, and as you prepare for Christmas, are you seeking to please others? Or are the gifts you give and the time you spend offered out of your own joy?
Wishing you generosity and joy this season!