Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Embracing Christmas

During the busy-ness of these holiday months I will randomly stop and wonder if, and hope that, we're doing it right.  It's tough living a sacred life in a secular world.

I don't think there's any other religious holiday that is so embraced (in ways good or bad) by the secular world.

I have friends and family members who celebrate Christmas on either side of that sacred/secular line.  I know families who don't acknowledge a Santa Claus.  I know families who don't go to church on Christmas.  I know families who don't put up a single Christmas decoration until the season of Advent is over.  I know families who aren't sure there is a Christ to worship but who celebrate a holiday known as Christmas anyhow.

Once I had children of my own I had to stop and think about it:  What was Christmas going to mean to us?  What were our own Christmas traditions going to be?  What was going to work best with our values?

If you come to my house you will find:
  • a fully-decorated tree that was put up around the beginning of December and will stay up through the Epiphany.
  • a Nativity set without a Baby Jesus until Christmas Morning.
  • an Advent wreath.
  • Christmas music of all kinds playing in the background.
  • an Advent prayer guide at my bedside.
  • the book 'Twas the Night Before Christmas sitting next to The Christmas Baby.
These were also the types of households both Brian and I were raised in.  We remember Christmas fondly.  We remember it being magical and delicious and a time to break the rules and a time to believe and a time when almost anything could happen.

Of course there were indulgences in consumerism.  But there were also lessons in giving and in patience and in self-discipline and in hope and in believing in the impossible.  These were the traditions given to us and these are the traditions we hope to continue.

This year Santa Claus will visit my children.  But, at four years old, if you ask William what he's most excited about come Christmas Day, Santa will probably not be at the top of his list.  He might tell you he's excited to find out where Daddy hid the Baby Jesus.  He might tell you he's excited that I'll finally let him wear that red tie to mass.  He might tell you he's excited to go to his Nana's house to play with all his cousins.  Or he might tell you he's excited to eat all the cookies Mommy's been saving.

But if you ask William what Christmas is, he will always, always, without hesitation, tell you that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.

And while these are the traditions that work for our family I still refuse to believe that a solely secular Christmas, one that embraces consumerism and one that may forget the CHRIST in Christmas, is all bad.  For at the heart of any Christmas celebration there is a common theme.  To give.  To give to others.  To give to our families.  To give to those less fortunate.  To give of ourselves.

And nothing reminds me more of Christ than to give.

So you see, even if it seems we've forgotten to remember Christ in Christmas, I know God is bigger than that.  He's found a way to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us all.  He's found a way to make us so excited we can't sleep the night before and we can barely eat our breakfast because we just can't wait another minute for Christmas to come.  He's found a way to inspire us to help those in need.  He's found a way to bring families together.  He's found a way for us to feel loved, to find peace and to be blessed.

So even if you may have forgotten that He is the reason for the season, He will never forget that you were the reason for His.

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