Lately I’ve been giving things like this a lot of thought:
Recently I posted on Facebook a question similar to this one: If you aren’t celebrating the birth of God’s son this Christmas, then WHAT is Christmas about?
Are you celebrating sweaters?
Or eggnog? Or wreaths? glittery balls that we put on trees inside our houses? Or poinsettas? Or Holiday sales? Seriously. When you take a step back and think about it, Christmas is weird. Especially when it has no central purpose other than “good feelings” and family obligations.
The responses to my Facebook post weren’t much, but one person actually wrote “time off work”. I can’t think of a more selfish thing to celebrate (not that time off of work isn’t needed or deserved), but considering what should be celebrated, to say our culture is off-track seems to be a bit of an understatement. And we’ve all heard phrases like “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, and we sing hymns every year that–although they are about the most glorious story to ever be told–are so familiar we might as well be singing our ABC’s. We go buy-crazy for other people (and, admittedly, ourselves), completely forgetting we’re supposed to be mirroring the generosity and awe the Magi had toward Christ. These things have irritated me in Christmases past, but there are a few reasons why I’m deeply frustrated this year with all-things-Christmas.
1. My own participation is most frustrating of all. I bought a $30 comforter yesterday for…my guest room. Believe me, I’m not pretending to be exempt from the selfishness that results from Christmas shopping.
2. I have a church who is actually demonstrating what celebrating Christmas should really look like. Last Christmas, Josh and I were just about to begin looking for churches. Engedi wasn’t yet a part of our lives and, really, accountability wasn’t either. Now I have a church family that is telling the Christmas story in all of it’s gory realism: although Christ was born, His purpose for coming was to die for us. For me. For you. The fact that the Cross gets neglected at Christmas is disgusting and embarrassing. And I can see the Enemy laughing Christians every day around Advent where we don’t think about the Cross one time. I’m really convicted by this this year, and I want to change my preparation for Christmas so it is centered on the Cross, the real reason Christ came in the first place.
3. I have a child who I’m beginning to teach about Christmas, and I’m not sure I want him to understand it the way I have. I want Jack to grow up with a real understanding of sacrifice (although I also, as his mom, want to wrap 1,000 gifts for him in goofy reindeer wrapping paper). Lately, I’ve been picturing waking up early on Christmas morning when Jack is older and going to volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen before we open a single gift. I so desperately want Jesus to be the center of Christmas for Jack, which means that He better be at the center for me and Josh as well.
4. I’ve been thinking about how pathetic it is that we buy white frilly dresses (pastel cable knit vests for boys with matching ties) and a big ‘ol ham for Easter Sunday, but Christmas gets weeks of attention by just about everyone. Isn’t that backwards?
5. I celebrate Christmas every year with people–who I love so deeply–who have absolutely no belief in Christ as God’s son. We give gifts to each other because we love each other, it’s tradition, it feels good, it’s fun; not because we, collectively, are joined in spirit as believers in Christ. This is not the way it should be, and I’m struggling with what to do about it. I feel I would have a similar reaction to someone who came to Jackson’s birthday party with no gift for him, no acknowledgment of him, and yet gave small gifts to everyone else there. If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense.
I’ve never, ever felt cynical around Christmas. The truth is, I love the holly, eggnog, peppermint, and carols. I love the shopping, gift-giving, cookie-making, and Santa stories. I love the feel-good feelings that are around this time of year, how even strangers say hello and open doors for one another. I love Christmas candy, Christmas movies, and the stockings that hang over my fireplace. There’s a lot of good that takes place around Christmas, but I’m realizing that the true meaning of Christmas is still under a bushel.
The coming of Christ and His journey toward the cross is the single most celebratory thing that has ever or will ever take place; May we all rejoice in this gift this season by interrupting our spending, routines, and conveniences to show the world just how great of a gift He is.