“Seinfeld” fans may remember that “Festivus” – the original holiday brainchild of Frank Costanza – falls on December 23rd – positioned on the calendar to contrast and combat the increasing commercialization of Christmas.
“Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son,” Jerry Stiller’s character, Frank Costanza, tells Kramer, the eccentric neighbor of Jerry Seinfeld played by Michael Richards. “I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.”
“What happened to the doll?” asks Kramer.
“It was destroyed,” Frank tells him. “But out of that a new holiday was born. A Festivus for the rest of us!”
According to the fictional 1997 storyline, a key component of the “Festivus” celebration is the “Airing of Grievances” – a tradition centered around telling fellow family members how they’ve disappointed you over the past year.
Many of us inadvertently celebrate “Festivus” all year – bemoaning and blaming our daily woes on our families and friends or politicians and even people we’ve never actually met.
Grievances come in all shapes and sizes, from the trivial to the substantive. I’ve complained about the wind and the weather – and then why my wife and I haven’t been able to conceive biological children.
I’ve griped and groused about ungrateful bosses, rude drivers, incompetent government workers and even the deer that rub their antlers on our trees each fall.
But this Festivus, I think it’s time to realize and recognize my biggest grievance is actually me. Always has been, actually.
Instead of looking outward, I need to look inward.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith,” wrote the apostle Paul. “Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor. 13:5).
Or James – “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (1:23-25).
Our world seems to award those who point fingers at others, all the while forgetting that when you point at someone else, three times as many fingers are pointing back at you.
There is very little I can do about others – but a whole lot I can do about myself.
If I’m frustrated with my health, I can choose a healthier diet and exercise more. If I’m tired in the morning, I can make a habit of going to bed earlier. If people irritate me online, I can go online less often – or not at all.
If the world continues to frustrate me, I can read my Bible and pray more – recognizing that I wasn’t ultimately made for this world but the next.
If my spouse is getting on my nerves, I might examine why and soon realize it’s my behavior eliciting a negative, cantankerous reaction from them.
If my children are taking my measure, maybe I should pause and remember just how many women and men would give almost anything to be a mother or a father.
If I’m honest, I get on my nerves all the time.
At the conclusion of “Seinfeld’s” Festivus episode, Frank invites George to participate in the “Feats of Strength” – an old-fashioned rumble that leaves the bespectacled son calling for mercy.
Thankfully, our Heavenly Father demands no such fight of us, giving endless mercy and inviting us to confess our sins and accept His promise of salvation.
Sorry, Frank – but that’s really the best Festivus ever.