I think we all want Christmas to be awesome. Filled with awe.
And as I drive through the neighbourhoods and see multi-coloured lights going up as the snow comes down in beautiful slow motion, anticipation builds.
And it’s a strange time.
For many people this season is quite sad, especially as they think of loved ones who’ve died; or a previous chapter of life that was more “right”; or dreams unfulfilled. Christmas has a self-reflective quality. And that’s also true for the bruised-hearted.
Smile for the camera even if you’re not sure.
But it’s also a season that can be great. Carols, Sunday School pageants, a special outreach, visiting friends, and eggnog. (Just don’t count the calories.)
This blog is really just to help us remember what it’s all about. A focus in the fray. In my home Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday. (Instead of worrying about whether we say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ maybe we should say ‘It’s a boy!’)
It’s about God’s parental love, seeking us out with a divine GPS, getting close no matter what hole we’re in, coming on a global rescue mission for his kids. For the next 4 weeks we are in “advent,” a time of preparation and anticipation for his arrival.
But we need to get past the sentimentality.
We also need to get past the consumerism.
One of the black eyes of Christmas is too many presents. When you talk about Christmas, what do you say? If the first thing out of your mouth is that we get presents, guess what you’re making it about? Presents.
It’s distracting. And we often can’t afford it.
In our home we focus on Jesus. And yes we give gifts. And we want them to be great. But we don’t want them to run the show. The gifts are patterned after the giving of the wise men, also in honour of a birthday. And presents are a part of a bigger story: worship, community, family, service, forgiveness, love.
(Some people also follow the example of the wise men and give gifts in the spirit of gold, frankincense and myrrh: They limits themselves to 3 gifts to someone special: The gold gift is the fun/flashy gift. The frankincense gift is a spiritual gift (like a devotional, or CD of faith-based music, or something to help them grow in their faith).The myrrh gift is something they need (like clothes or whatever). Just an idea.)
But each of us has an opportunity to pull back from the train crash of consumerism and fill-the-void-shopping therapy and emphasize what it’s really about. The God of the galaxies manifesting in the womb of a girl—showing the path back to the Father’s heart.
Is it fun? Yes.
Is it gluttonous? No.
It’s about presence.
I hear echoes of Dr. Seuss: “Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Or a lot.
As always Rev. Matthew you give us a food for thought, as the saying goes wise words my friend.
Thanks Susie! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.
Intrigued with the 3-gift idea.
Hi Errol, Yes the 3-gift idea was introduced to me a few years back and I really liked it. It gives some concrete parameters around giving and also a spiritual grounding too.