I love this time of year. I know some complain about the Christmas stuff being out but I don’t mind it at all. I love to see all the lights and to listen to the music. Christmas movies are some of my favorite to watch. I grew up watching the old ones with my mom- Holiday Inn, White Christmas and some of the newer ones with my dad- Christmas Vacation and Home Alone.
This has rubbed off on my toddler who has already started demanding to go through the Christmas sections in stores. He gets a kick out of the inflatable Santa Clauses. One of the unintended consequences of us talking so much about Christmas is that he’s started pointing at everything and saying “want that for Christmas”. We’ve used the classic lines of “maybe Santa will bring it” and “maybe for Christmas” when he asks for something.
I wrote a rant a few years ago about what has come to be known as the holiday season. I hope this doesn’t come across as the typical “reason for the season” type thought because it’s really something more than that. I love giving and getting gifts. I loved the hours my teenage son and I spent last year putting together my toddler’s train table. I love seeing everyone’s smiles when they open a gift- whether it was expected or not. I love putting up the Christmas tree and decorating our house.
But, I also love the season of Advent. It was something that I was really introduced to while I served in a United Methodist Church. It starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas eve. There are four candles that are lit one at a time on each Sunday leading up to Christmas. We read a devotional and light the candle and reflect on “the Word becoming flesh”.
Woo- talk about a contrast in messages! In the first one it’s all about “stuff”- making sure our kids have the newest plastic thing that they’ll either break or forget about in a few weeks. The focus is on ourselves and wanting people to think highly of us. We drive ourselves crazy hunting for that perfect gift at rock bottom prices. We often dig financial holes for ourselves that we spend the rest of the year paying off.
The secular symbol for this holiday is the big man himself, Santa Clause. He’s an elf that is omnipresent and all knowing. He keeps a list of “good boys and girls” and “bad boys and girls”. Ultimately he represents the fulfillment of all of our materialistic wishes and dreams. You want that brand new shiny bike? Santa Clause will give it to you- just be “good” (which 100% of kids, when asked, would say they’ve been “good” this year).
The second is all about a God who didn’t give us “stuff” but gave us Himself. He knows that our deepest longing won’t be satisfied with more toys but only in relationships. He knows that more than “toys” we want to be loved and to love. The gifts he gives us are restoration, healing, forgiveness and purpose.
The Christian symbol for Christmas is a baby- God takes on flesh and becomes a servant to man. He sets an example for us to follow and tells us we will have a Helper. Jesus was born to die so that we might live. It was indeed a holy night when Christ entered the world and we remember it with reverence.
I know I have no power to actually do what I am about to propose but if I could I would actually separate Christ-mass from the secular holiday of Christmas. I’m sure someone at the ACLU is already working on removing “Christ” from Christmas and it will be interesting to see what they come up with. I will not be one of the ones to be upset when we quit referring to the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the day we celebrate materialism as one and the same.
I told my teenager that I wanted to bring more balance to the holiday in our house. I want to put more focus on the spiritual aspects than the material. His response was “that’s what poor people say”. Touche- we are “poor” but we are also confident that we don’t have anything to prove to ourselves or to him. We can buy gifts but we would like to not make that the focus. What does buying an X-box game where you hunt and kill have to do with the birth of Jesus? How does making sure my toddler has the newest Mickey Mouse or Elmo teach him that there is a God that loves him, came to earth to show that love and longs for him to be in relationship with Him?
I’m not sure exactly what we’re doing that will be different but I’m confident that we can do something that will balance the secular and the sacred meaning of the holiday. So, how does your family keep Christ in Christmas?