A week from today many homes will be abuzz with new toys blaring, torn paper littering, and holiday meals cooking. It is the most awaited-for day of each year yet, in recent years, sadly, it has grown to become one of the most contested days as well.
I've been on this earth nearly 50 years now and, for the longest time, Christmas was celebrated as the most joyous time of year. Yes, we were always aware of those less fortunate both domestic and abroad, but the root of why we celebrated also fueled our charity and left us always mindful of the scope humanity contains.
Over the past decade, however, I feel as though joy has been turned into debate - traditions into trashing... even Christians can't agree to the simplicity of the season's message, choosing instead to condescend those who dare listen for sleigh bells or leave out sweet treats for a jolly 'old elf'. Instead of the peace and happiness this season use to bring, everyone, in every camp, is growing increasingly bitter.
"Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas"
Santa is coming or No such thing
Only Jesus or Jesus with all the rest
Only Carols or Give me ALL the Christmasy tunes
And on and on the debate goes. In a holiday post from my old blog, I tackled the idea of Santa being A Parable in Modern Form. I wrote those words when I still had a few Santa believers left in the house. While I understand many Christian's concerns over "lying" to their kids about St. Nick or the fear of when they find out he really doesn't visit and then begin to also doubt the TRUTH of Jesus... I have to say, I feel like many people are missing the chance to strike balance in these issues.
I have known good Christian families who hung stockings and waited until Christmas morning while also choosing to NOT follow the story of Santa Claus with their children - years later, some of these children have grown up to not believe even in God any longer because the gravity and reality of life has left them wandering and lost. I have also known good Christian families who set cookies out and read the stories - both Jesus and Santa and, when the time came, broke the news of who Santa was without loosing the anchor of Christ - the children and families growing up in-tact both in community and in faith.
There is no sure-fire way.
When my oldest learned that Santa did NOT, in fact, scurry down our chimney each Christmas Eve, he was devastated. He was one of those who followed this realization with, "Is Jesus even real??" prompting me to really consider how and if we were to continue with North Pole shenanigans with the other 3. (I DID explain the reality in a gentle and appealing way and he is still a Christian over 20 years later.) While I stand by my old post on 'Modern Parables', again, I will also add balance. Anything in life without balance, will create a void. Too much Santa, and you risk a superficial faith... NO Santa, and you loose the sense of relatable innocence and wonder.
I'm not here to say DO or DON'T welcome Santa into your home - If anything, I am encouraging grace for the different schools of thought. I say this, not just as a mom of four grown children who all still know Jesus AND welcomed Santa, but also as a woman who grew up in a secular/atheist home.
You see, while my grandmother planted the seeds of Jesus in my heart at a young age, I only saw her a few times a year. Growing Jesus under my atheist dad's roof, happened because of Christmas and Santa and Carols both old and new.
- Light in darkness as we decorated a tree with connections to past and tradition as old family ornaments hung from its boughs.
- Thinking of others and giving, not just receiving, to be like Santa who gives from the heart without prejudice.
- Hearing favorite contemporary rock groups croon "Silent Night" and other powerful Biblically rich carols prompted me to wonder - if they could say His name, couldn't I too?
Television shows and decorative displays everywhere shared the message of Jesus and some mysterious "Salvation" which mankind needed. This Gift must be HUGE, I thought, if an entire season -including a fat man in a red suit- could be set aside and capture an entire world in its revelry. As a child of the 70s and 80s, the only people who were not celebratory of this season were Jehovah's Witnesses and Scrooges.
Now, sadly, I feel as though the Scrooges are a majority. Christians arguing over HOW we celebrate, non Christians arguing over WHY we celebrate, various groups lodging complaints on ethnicity in both the Savior and the Santa, while others lead protests against manger scenes and "Christmas" programs. All the while, shouting for unity and peace on earth while completely missing the simplicity this season offers.
- A baby boy AS a gift no one deserved
- A man (later sainted) who honored that gift by showing similar kindness and compassion to children in an early century
- An anniversary intended to hijack a pagan festival and use it to overtake and spread a very Christian message
This "anniversary", I might add, was quite successful in it's directive to spread the most important Message of all time with celebrations through goodwill, a jolly spirit, and hope. Christmas teaches us so much more than the din of disputes will stop to consider. I don't have to "do" Christmas your way and you don't have to "do" Christmas mine. But we ALL should be keeping Christmas in our hearts, in our ways, with Christ at the center and all else trickled around and pointing to Him.
~ Santa was never intended to replace Christ - He existed to point others TO Him.
~ Trees don't create idols - they symbolize Light and Everlasting Life as our Savior does to us.
~ The secrets are not "lies" and they are not required to make the holiday special - it IS Ok to foster anticipation and wonder, just as the world waited and hoped for a Savior until Mary was chosen.
ALL these things are a great opportunity to spark conversation with those who don't understand the manger, the Reason and our greatest HOPE which these season celebrates.
This quote sums up the sentiments well:
What a blessing Christmas is! What it does for friendship! Why, if there were no Christmases, we'd have to invent one, for it is the one season of the year when we can lay aside all gnawing worry, indulge in sentiment without censure, assume the carefree faith of a childhood, and just plain "have fun." Whether they call it Yuletide, Noel, Weihnachten, or Christmas, people around the earth thirst for its refreshment as the desert traveler for the oasis.
I don't know where you have stood throughout this Christmas season. It isn't too late to dial back, though, and choose to KEEP Christmas in such a way that Peace on Earth and HOPE and Hallelujah can be restored.