My thirteen-year-old son (who has never won a spelling bee, please note) has the words “Christmas Mourning” written in bold letters, circled and hi-lited wildly on his December school calendar.
He is at the most tender, wonderful, happy age – old enough to understand and appreciate the true meaning of Christmas and young enough to be hi-lighter-yellow EXCITED for all that he knows is in store in the next few weeks. He is also old enough to know how to properly spell “morning”, but that’s neither here nor there…
Celebrating Christmas correctly has been in my mental in-box for a few weeks, a rock in my shoe. Are we doing things right in our family? Should we be doing more? Less?Fewer? I read passionate essays about the current state of Christmas, and the inspired authors make me think hard and soul wrestle. But why is there this persistent message that feels more like Christmas Mourning; a fast rather than a feast?
I wish I had a better segue here, but I don’t. Please bear with me.
Birthdays in our family are a rather big whup (woop? whoop?). And by that I mean, epic.
“You were born!” we literally sing. “You, precious one, were placed specifically in our family by God himself! Joy to us and to the world! The world is not the same since you’ve been born – we are so much more with you here. How cool is that? Now, let’s get this par-tay started, because the day isn’t long enough for all the festive awesomeness that is going to abound celebrating you!”
(Just a side note: My favorite seven letters in the alphabet might be F.E.S.T.I.V. and E.)
If the amazing miracle of being born and placed with care by God himself into a family doesn’t bust out the jubilee, what ever will?
Turn with me now to Christmas. God came down and was born into an actual family. Try and get your mind around that for a few minutes. Now walk on over and turn the celebration volume up to an appropriate cosmic level. God thinks being born into an actual family is a big deal, BECAUSE IT IS. It’s a sacred, unbelievably epic deal.
Let heaven and nature throw a raucous party!
So why the anxious faces, saints? There is so much wringing of hands and worry that “we” are losing sight of the real meaning of Christmas. Celebrating the birth of Jesus is no time for somberness and uber-gravitas (neither of those are real words, by the way), it is the exact-right-time for a display of exuberant joy!
In his song “Cheer Up Church”, Charlie Peacock has the greatest line, ever. “Cheer up church, things are worse off than you think.” It’s not exactly a Christmas song, but it could be for me this year! “Do not despair, do not fear. Grace is near.” He sings, right on time.
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Grace is here! Christmas is here!
Has Christmas has been hijacked by the spirit of consumerism and greed? Well of course! All of this age has been “hijacked” by consumerism and greed. Actually, we’ve put out our thumb and hitch-hiked a ride on the me-me-me money train, but let’s not quibble.
Despite this, I see both Advent and Christmas being celebrated hopefully and joyously the whole world over by saints who are teaching their children well and celebrating the real meaning of Christmas, in spite of (or because of) a culture that is not a holy one. AND, we can put up nativities on our window-sill without being thrown in prison!
Why the big shock and disappointment that there is some real spiritual tension at Christmas? There is holy tension every other day. There are regular assaults on my family, my marriage and my friendships. The call is for me is to remember who I am, and who Christ is, on all the plain ‘ol days.
Do we need to put Christ back in Christmas? Are we Santa sell-outs? Heck, yes! I forget my real purpose as a Christian all the time. It’s embarrassing, really, how fast I forget. I sell out every day.
But a celebration at Christmas is not selling out. A feast may be in order. Gifts may be exchanged without guilt! Toasts may be made! Laughter and traditions and warmth may abound in any number of simple or happy ways.
Might I suggest we examine our hearts, mine first and foremost? Where am I being thoughtless or spiritually proud? Do I want to teach my children a lesson about the meaning of Christmas rather than struggle it out quietly on a personal heart level? Is there a brightness in me and our home that our children can value more than presents? Am I actively caring for those who cannot feast or rejoice?
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great Light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a Light has dawned.”
What would it look like if I bemoaned the state of Christmas less, and celebrated the exuberant, bright joy of Christmas more?
I bet I’d fret a bit less if I was doing the “correct” things at Christmas. I’d sing to and celebrate the God who was born to derail the death train. I’d look to give MORE, not less. And I’d get my F.E.S.T.I.V. and E party on.
Peace and great joy to you and yours this Advent season
“For unto US a Son is given, unto US a child is born.”