10 December 2013

Holy Day, not holiday

How many ways can I begin this post before deleting it all?  How do I nicely say what I want to say?  How do I make sure to convey to you my thoughts without appearing like I'm passing judgement?


I love Christmas.  I love the biblical truth of a Savior coming to rescue us from sin.  I don't like how Christmas is so consumer driven.  How selfish shopping sneaks into the day when we're supposed to be giving thanks.  I don't like stores being open on Thanksgiving but that's not my rant.  I'm not a scrooge or a grinch, but I'm not so wildly focused on the biggest and best gifts either.  I actually love the winter season, the decorated tree in the house, Christmas music, cider, caroling, baking, and all that fun stuff.  I also really enjoy giving gifts.  Combining those two things, it's fair to assume that Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Is it though???  

Enjoying Christmas has become increasingly frustrating for me.  I have two problems with what I see at Christmas time.  Again, this is my opinion and I'm writing it to vent and maybe to encourage you to think through it for yourselves, not to criticize you and tell you how to live your life.  The first problem is that the commercialism of Christmas overshadows the reason we celebrate Christmas anyway.  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  In the form of a baby, God put his rescue plan into action.  That baby was born of a virgin - a perfect, sinless, obedient child who grew to a man and ultimately became the sacrifice for our sins.  No one else could foot the bill.  Humanity had already fallen short and couldn't earn our way to heaven.  This baby Jesus filled the gap.  Of course, it didn't end with a baby.  Like I said, he grew to a man before he died for our sins. But death couldn't conquer our King and He rose on the third day, defeating death and ascending to heaven.  With that in mind, how could we not celebrate Christmas as the baby born.  The second problem I have is the overwhelming expectations and realities that come with gifts.  Think about all that goes into gifts.  Stores being open on Thanksgiving, families going into huge debt, people being ungreatful for their gifts, and piles of stuff that we don't know what to do with because we already have too much stuff!  I'm not even going to take the time to look up the statistics because we can see it in our own homes.  We know how much we spend on gifts.  It's crazy.  It's outrageous.  What's even worse is that those of us who call ourselves Christians fall into this consumer-driven trap.  We even justify it by coming up with creative ways to "give" to others by offloading our old toys.  Really!?!?!?  I've done this exact thing.  Maybe you have too.  We think we have such giving hearts that we decide to have our kids give away one of their old toys for every new toy they get.  Why do we do that?  Is it really because we have such generous hearts and want to donate to the less fortunate?  Or is it because we're so overwhelmed with stuff that we have to get rid of a few things?  Or because we feel better about ourselves for doing it.  Guys, I've been right there with you.  Not that long ago, we did this exact thing.  Sure, our kids learned a lesson of giving to those who are less fortunate.  But there are many ways we can teach this lesson.  

This past November I tried to walk through each day with an attitude of thankfulness.  Having been in developing nations on numerous occasions, it's not hard to realize how blessed we are.  Moving from November into December, I wanted to continue my thankful attitude.  Conscious of the blessings we have an the needs of others, I've thought of creative ways to give gifts.  For example, last year we gave a little home-made hand scrub, or tea mixture, etc to the educators in our children's lives.  It was a fun way to show appreciation for them and to give them a little something.  But it's a huge struggle for me because I love to give gifts, but I'm also convinced that we over-do Christmas.  Why do we have to buy big extravagant gifts?  Why do families think that going into debt to buy such things is wise?  I buy gifts but they tend to be things my family needs -  like socks and underwear, books, and pencils, etc.  After all, when the shepherds brought gifts to Jesus, they were gold, incense, and myrrh - three things that were used in the daily lives of people back then.  Really, I would love to have a big gift giving period.  It would be a radical change, but what if we focused on the birth of Jesus at Christmas and use birthdays, or some random day in August for a big gift giving party?  I want to remember to view Christmas as a Holy Day, not a consumer-driven holiday.

Believe me, it's not easy for me to talk about because I too enjoy receiving gifts.  For some years, I've only wanted practical gifts.  Until last year.  Last year I didn't want things for the house, I wanted something for ME.  Not something practical like my typical request of wool socks.  I wanted to feel spoiled.  I have an awesome husband who ended up getting me something fun for just me, something expensive, and definitely something I wouldn't have purchased for myself.  While it was a very generous gift that came loaded with aps, songs, my email set up on it, etc, I wasn't near as excited as I should be.  Partly because I don't like opening gifts in front of others but mostly because I felt so selfish.  I would much rather have time with family and friends, wool socks, strings for my guitar, etc.

What about you?  Are you willing to share your Christmas thoughts?