Pin It This is a re-post from last year. I've been thinking about this again this year and thought there might be someone who would benefit this year...
I've been giving Christmas a bit of extra thought this year. Every year I hear people trying to remind everyone about the true meaning of Christmas and berating the world for its consumerism and greediness. I guess I've never really felt that at Christmas. See, in general, I think Christians are a bit too hard on themselves and the rest of society. I hear Christians with young children trying to make sense out of the best way to communicate Christmas to their kids, sometimes giving different types of presents or questioning the introduction of Santa.
The thing is, I think it's totally awesome that the population at large participates in Christmas. We frequently remind our fellow Christians of "the reason for the season" and we know that's why we celebrate, but others do too. And basically, that's an open door for us. How great an opportunity that our holiday so central to our faith is publicized and promoted. Maybe instead of lamenting the loss of the religious aspect of Christmas to the secular world, we should rejoice in the opportunity it gives us to evangelize our fellow man.
Christians express frustration that they are unable to focus their faith during the season and parents stress about raising their children to understand Christmas properly. Well, let me share...
I grew up giving and receiving gifts on Christmas day. I grew up expecting Santa Claus on Christmas eve and watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I also grew up reading an advent calendar daily during the month of December, attending a candelight service on Christmas eve, and finding at least one way to give to someone in the name of Christ each year. For anyone who wonders if you can meld the secular and religious traditions of Christmas, you can. My parents and family did, and they ended up with a minister and an ever-more faithful daughter.
I give gifts every year and not out of obligation, but a desire to give my family and friends something I carefully crafted, worked hard to find, or carefully chose. One year, I gave everyone a gift of a donation to a charity I selected specifically as something that person supported. The same feeling that went with that year is the same for more traditional gifts--a sense of thoughtfulness. Gift-giving does not have to be something you feel forced to do by the shopping industry. If it is for you, then don't do it. It's not for me.
Santa is also not the worst concept. I think the best defense I heard was on an old episode of 7th Heaven where Simon prayed for his younger sister Ruthie to have some way to believe in Santa Claus that year. He said she needs to believe in Santa, it's how she works her way up to the big stuff, like you. Include Santa or don't, but have a little faith in yourself that your child's belief in Santa will not be their downfall when you consider everything else you'll teach them.
While all of my ideas are good for me, I have come to realize in the past couple of years that maybe it's easier for me. You see, I think I finally understand that I have an above-average love of Christmas. And while it may just be coincidence, I say it's because I was born around Christmas. I really think there is something to this.
I have assumed my entire life that others love Christmas just as much as me. But the older I get, the more I realize that many people see it as simply an annual time of stress or disgust at the world, as mentioned above. But to me, it's such a time of renewal.
Winter has always been my season. For most of my life, I have preferred the cold. I love snow, I love sweaters, hats, gloves, hot chocolate. I think an extra-special thing about Christmas is that it is during a time of cold. The fact that we create such warmth and joy in the midst of all the cold and bleakness is a paradox that is quite beautiful to me.And Christmas carols--oh, how I love. I have a deep love for singing the most traditional songs. The words seem more simple and the praises more authentic. They fill me with hope, graciousness, and love. The First Noel regularly makes me teary-eyed, along with flawless renditions of O Holy Night (I refuse to sing this one personally since I do not have the voice to do it justice).
And finally, there is my Christmas "miracle". Every year, there is something, a moment, a person, an action, a statement overheard, that once again centers me in this "true meaning of Christmas".
I think more of us get it than we realize.