Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Thoughts On Christmas

Posting ones thoughts on Christmas is shaky territory because *everybody* has their own opinion of how things should be celebrated. I had friends in college that would gripe about the commercialization, etc. but it didn't really bother me. I bought presents, ate cookies, and received presents. When Amanda was born I decided that I wouldn't do Santa Claus with her because I never believed in Santa (despite elaborate efforts by my parents) and it just wasn't my thing. I actually really ticked off a nail tech (that was working on my nails) when Travis and I first got married. I told her my daughter didn't believe in Santa Claus *or* the Easter Bunny (I didn't know you were supposed to *believe* in the Easter bunny). So this really isn't a diatribe on how anybody except the Buttons will celebrate Christmas.

In the last several years since Travis and I have been married I can only remember two Christmases that haven't been incredibly difficult mostly financially but three years ago it was difficult because we were living with my parents. I remember sitting in the bedroom Travis and I were staying in and all of our earthly posessions were in my parents basement and I was 9 months pregnant. (If you don't know, we moved to AL to help my parents start a church. )And all I could think of was how crummy of a Christmas it would be. And the Lord really convicted me of thinking that our circumstances should dictate "how good" of a Christmas it would be. So over the years and as things have gotten more difficult for us I've just kind of let go of the celebration aspect. What's it all about anyway? I've heard it said that "Christmas is for children", "Christmas is for families", Christmas is for giving, Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men, etc. And I'm ashamed to say that I hadn't ever examined it closely enough to know if any of that is true. I did the same stuff my parents did. I'm not sure why they did it, that's just how we celebrated Christmas- and it was all about the presents. I'm sure my parents felt a trememdous amout of guilt if they couldn't get us everything we were expecting. So is Chrismas about presents, bonuses, fourth quarter earnings, black Friday, grumpy shoppers, exhausted Mommies, endless traffic, endless lines?

I decided to take a cranial approach to the whole thing and find out why we celebrate the way we celebrate. And what I found out was that Christmas was started by the church to be competition for a pagan holiday celebrated on the same day. Individuals birthdays weren't typically celebrated so I guess they felt that they had to bring out "the big guns" to drag folks away from pagan revelries. But regardless why they started it the day is still the celebration of the birth of our savior- so my point is not that it is a pagan holiday as I've heard some Christians say. Then I looked at symbolism and where this thing comes from and why do we do that, and what I found out is that Christmas traditions are celebrated according to local customs. Everybody does it differently. But it was gnawing at me- what.is.the.point?

So finally I just prayed, "Lord how do you want us to celebrate Christmas?". I think I might have been expecting to hear him say that it is pointless and there is no need to celebrate it at all- to validate my cynicism. But what I heard him say was "how would you celebrate the birth of a king?". How should I celebrate God becoming human flesh to walk among us and change the course of mankind's destiny? Well, when you put it like that I think that I can only celebrate and worship. Not having the money to "celebrate" like we're used to doesn't negate the fact that Christ came to earth and lived among us so that we could have a relationship with our creator. So we will celebrate, and worship and do our very best to give our children an understanding of why we celebrate Christmas. Which is difficult when nearly every program on TV is about Santa Claus coming to town.

I'm not familiar with Advent. My Christian heritage is pentecostal and when the pentecostal movement happened I think they shunned any type of formal or liturgical worship in favor of being "led by the spirit". I know why they did. My Dad was raised Lutheran and didn't even know he needed to be "saved" until he was in his 20's and then it was because a couple with pentecostal or charismatic roots reached out to him. And while I'm not picking on Lutherans or any other Liturgical church- I know that for some people it represented "dead worship". I, on the other hand, have read some liturgy and it is completely beautiful. It couldn't have been written by someone versed in "dead worship" because that type of worship comes from a soul that knows Christ- they could not have written it otherwise. So it seems (though I don't have a good grip on it yet) that Advent could very well be incorporated into what we do. I just know that now I understand what all the decorating and feasting and celebrating is about. It's about Christ and that is something that I can wholeheartedly celebrate.


Tisra said...

Amen, Amy! Amen. I'm so glad that it has taken on extra meaning for you in recent years.

Mary said...

That was well put. It was several years ago now that I realized that Worship was the best gift I could give Jesus for His birthday. I try to remember that when I'm feeling all harried in preparing for everything else we put into it. I think all of the excess, is only excess if we don't have the right attitude when we do it. Just like hymns and liturgy and anything else that can become "religious" to us, it's only valuable if our heart is attached.

I love, love, love the "excess"!

Amy said...

Well, I didn't even post on the extravagance aspect of it but the wisemen gave incredibly extravagant gifts to Jesus. And so I think that as much as possible this will be an extravagant season of joy and celebration. I'm excited.

Christy said...

Oooo - love this post. I was raised to celebrate Christmas extravagantely. We never had money - one year, I think we even qualified for Toys for Tots. But my parents always made the holiday full of traditions and celebrations that didn't require money. Advent was part of what our celebration, though we weren't Lutheran - though my mom was raised Lutheran. My dad always said "God loves a good party." So we always tried to throw our best party for Jesus' birthday!

The Shocks said...

I agree with you also. My parents did not teach us there was a santa. We always knew there wasn't. I always want to make sure that we are celebrating the birth of our Saviour. My husband was raised different and thinks I'm trying to take childhood away from our kids. I stand firm though.