Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why celebrating Christmas IS our family

Recently, I've been confronted,
 from several different sources, 
with this idea that celebrating Christmas
is a bad idea.

That it has its roots in paganism.
{Ever checked out the origin of the traditional Christmas "tree"?}

That we shouldn't be instilling a sense in our children that we are untruthful
and inconsistent when we encourage them to believe in Santa.

That we are trapped in a culture of commercialism and materialism,
and we've set aside our brains and are just following the tsunami of people around us into
a frantic race to get the best gift for our kids {or whoever else}
and to throw ourselves willingly into debt to get this gift!!

That Jesus Christ wasn't born in December anyway, 
so there's no reason to celebrate His "birthday."

That simply trying to "Christianize" a historically Roman holiday celebrating the winter solstice
and their sun gods is nothing less than justifying why we ignore scripture.


I certainly don't mean to offend those families who feel very strongly about 
living authentically and Biblically.

I certainly agree with nearly all of those points mentioned above.
But I want my children to know why we do the things WE do.
That's why I keep this journal.......
so if I fail to verbalize something to them in our everyday walk together,
that they will have it in writing here.....
as a sort of "landmark."

There are several reasons that our family has deliberately chosen to "celebrate" 
the season of Advent.....Christmas {if you will.}

We just have a little bit different motivation.
There are some things we recognize as myth and not true to the Bible,
and we are trying to be faithful to point those things out to our children.

Yes, I know that the birth of Christ was most likely NOT during the month of December.
The shepherds were probably not "keeping watch over their flocks by night" with wintery weather.
Some scholars believe that based on the patterns of shepherds during that time period,
Christ's birth was more likely during the fall season.

Yes, I understand that the "wise men" did not show up at the stable/cave where the newborn Christ lay.
In fact, there is no mention in scripture that there were only THREE wise men.
I guess we've picked up that traditional belief from the fact that only 3 gifts were mentioned
{gold, frankincense, and myrrh}.
It has trickled down into our traditional Christmas music {We Three Kings of Orient Are},
as well into many of the Nativity sets we use to decorate our homes at this time of year.

So what?
Does that mean I shouldn't share the story of Christ's humble, yet glorious,
Does that mean I have to lose the wonder and anticipation of "Advent."
That period of waiting for the culmination of our hopes and the promises of God?
I think not.
Of course, we could be extremely authentic and counter-cultural and "celebrate" His birth in October.
I really could.
And that wouldn't be wrong either.
I really don't believe though that our Heavenly Father sits on His throne and is crossing His arms,
displeased that we are following the traditions of men in the month of December.
I believe that what really matters to Him is our worship.
And what we are worshipping....

I have to admit here that I am not a fan of Santa.
I'm sorry.
I'm just not.
There is only one person who
"sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake,
he knows if you've been bad or good...."
and my Bible puts it this way....

"O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me.
Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up;
Thou dost understand my thought from afar.
Though dost scrutinize my path and my lying down,
and art intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all.....
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me...

Whither can I go from Thy Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Thy presence?"
Psalm 139: 1-7

I want my children to be motivated to do the right thing,
not because an imaginary person will give them presents if they are good,
but because it's the RIGHT thing, and pleasing to the God who created them,
loves them with an everlasting love, and gave His life for them.

So we don't do Santa in any way shape or form......including the stocking thing.
I know....Bah-Humbug!!
But why do stockings when they are supposed to be 
"hung by the chimneys with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas will be there?"

I just prefer that my children understand that their gifts come from real people.
I don't want them thinking that I {as their parent} am teaching them to lie and believe lies.
It's the same thing with the "Tooth Fairy" and the "Easter Bunny."
We don't do them either.
I know......Bah-Humbug.

Children have to be taught how to still themselves and learn to worship.
They have to be taught NOT to be think outside of their own little worlds.
What better way than to point them to the God who GAVE!!
Gave of Himself,
Gave up the splendor of Heaven,
to come into the middle of our stinking mess.....
to be that once for all sacrificial Lamb to permanently cover our sin,
and to provide that bridge to cover the separation between Himself and us.

Why not use this time of year to teach our children about giving.
Not just to our friends who already have more than they could possibly need,
and could easily give back something in return.
Why not teach them the meaning of SACRIFICIAL giving.
I know of families who don't give gifts to family members at all.
Instead, they go through catalogs where you can buy chickens, and wells of water, 
and goats, and seeds for a garden
for people in third world countries who have nothing.
No opportunities for work.
No way of providing food for their children.
No carpet, or indoor plumbing, or running water, or washing machines,
or dishwashers, or refrigerators....
Why not sponsor a child from a horrific situation for a little bit a month.
I love how Ann Voskamp challenges our thinking on this and dares us to rename Christmas.....
Because isn't that what it's all about anyway?

We enjoy giving gifts to our children at Christmas.
It's part of that anticipation.
But we don't go into debt to do that.
And we don't go crazy trying to get them everything they want.
Instead, we spend much of this Advent season
talking about giving to others.
What can we make to express love and joy to those who've blessed us?

We enjoy being together as a family,
creating yummy goodies in the kitchen,
taking time to work together,
learn new flavors,
create family traditions that are meaningful
and that teach the truth!

As we go through the month of December we fill our home with glorious music that speaks
of the wonder of His birth,
the wonder of the shepherds...
..the lowly outcasts tending the lambs for the sin sacrifices in the local temple who had the privilege of being among the first to see our One and Only sacrificial Lamb.
We use THIS to walk with our children through the names of Jesus that further
unwrap Who He is and What He is to us.
Preparing our hearts for the anticipation of His coming.
We know that He has already come to earth once to die for Us,
but it also teaches us to anticipate that Second Coming of Christ when He will set up His reign here on earth for a millenium.
It naturally prepares us to worship!!

Christmas should not be a burden.
Christmas should not be exhausting to us.
Christ came to lift our burdens and carry our loads.
If we are burdened and stressed, we are doing more than Christ expected us to do.
Naturally, when we are creating things in our kitchen for those we enjoy,
and with those little ones we love to be with,
it can be physically tiring and stressful at times.
But does that mean I should avoid ALL stress for the sake of making things easier for myself?
Again, I think not.

But if you are dreading Christmas time in OCTOBER because of the busyness 
that is facing you, maybe that's a signal to rethink your purpose for what you do.
Maybe you can skip 1 or 3 of the "parties" that you're expected to bring a plate of something to.
We have not sent out Christmas cards for the second year in a row.
I just can't get to that.
We have over 100 people on our friends list, 
and that doesn't include the 100's of "church family" members.
It was becoming such a big job for me.
Not a priority.
What more can I say in a card that I haven't already communicated on facebook or this blog?

It's not about doing....but stilling.
Stilling ourselves to worship before that newborn.
Not with twinkling lights, and tinsel, and wrapping paper, and toys.
But remember that Christmas is....
the love...
the joy....
the wonder....
the gift....
of Jesus.
For every day....all year round.

"Celebrate a Christmas that cannot be bought, or created, or made by hand.
A Christmas that isn’t a product to wrap — but a Person to unwrap.
A Christmas that can only be found —
in the creche…  in the cradling trough…  in the mire and the stench and the unexpected and the unlikely.
Only in the person of Christ."
-Ann Voskamp

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