Friday, December 5, 2014
For most people, Christmas is already front and center on their minds. Either with advent preparations, or gift buying and making, Christmas parties, decorating, the list goes on .... Even away from home, Christmas is front and center here too. We have our stockings hung and the kids love doing their advent calendar on the computer. We love the chocolate advent calendars and that is the first thing they do every morning -- What can I say, I'm a softie :) Soon we'll start crafting some ornaments and gifts.
We've also been doing some Jesus-based advent lessons and reading our favorite Christmas story books.
For me, it has never been too terribly hard to blend the Christmas traditions. Jesus is always "the reason for the season" and I try to be very deliberate about reminding the kids of that. But Santa can easily represent a lot of the things Jesus brought to us -- love, generosity, magic.
During one of my own adult advent lessons, I listened to a podcast of a collection of Christian women talking about advent. And boy was it depressing. One began by saying, "I hate Christmas." How can one be Christian and hate the celebration of Christ's birth? She referred to it as a "man-made holiday". Really? They said the lead up to Christmas is so exhausting, they don't even enjoy the holiday any more. So sad, and yet probably very true for a lot of people.
I realize that many Christian holidays line up with equinox and solstice days, I'm not clueless. But I also believe whole-heartedly in the truth of the bible. The women went on to talk about how hard it is for them to explain to their children how Jesus fits into modern-day Christmas and all its commercialization, and some said they don't even try. They keep them completely separate. I'll admit, consumerism is a tough battle to fight, but it's not impossible. Why should we choose our TV habits and our stores over the heart of our families -- faith? If you're like me and crave a simpler Christmas, full of memories instead of exhaustion, turn the TV off and miss all those commercials and Hollywood versions of what Christmas is. Stay home and out of the crazy stores. I promise your heart will feel calmer.
It is a little easier here, as we're a bit off the grid. But not completely. I love giving gifts, but I'm not going to let it consume me and give me anxiety like I did last year during Black Friday. If I don't find that all-perfect gift for someone, they'll understand. And, more often than not, they won't even notice. The next day I read a different (and better!) advent lesson on giving and receiving. The author posed this question: "When did we start expecting instead of receiving, and buying instead of giving?"
She offered this suggestion:
So whatever it is we're giving, let us offer in love. And whatever it is we're receiving, let us welcome with humility.
Generosity isn't about what we give. It's about how we give. And receiving isn't about what we're getting. It's about how we welcome.
Last night I let Ever stay up late to watch the Peter Pan Live special on TV. It was alright, but what I noticed most were the commercials that, of course, made Christmas out to be all about the "stuff" we could get and give. They are advertisements after all. I tried to point this out to Ever and I hope some small fraction of it took anchor.
Don't let the world make you hate Christmas because you can't buy enough stuff, or afford the best decorations or gifts or food. It's not about that. It's about faith and love and family and friends. My personal goal is to keep the magic in Christmas always and to never give up keeping Jesus at the front and center of this season. Merry Christmas.