As we have been re-evaluating our home life, our family choices, and changing bit by bit over the past few years, not one tradition has gone untouched. Everything we do in life is an expression of our beliefs, and our trust in God. Everything has to be held to God’s standard, which we learn from The Bible. Holidays are just one aspect of that.
Christmas is one of the BIG Holidays and has always been one of my favorites. I noticed, as I grew older, that Christmas became an empty expression of a meaningless feeling. Getting together with family was nice, but not enough. The gifts were lovely, for a short time. But it was an empty day, with little true substance. When I was teaching at a local daycare (for 6 years!) I overheard, and knew many parents spoke of the “magic” of Christmas, and how they tried to keep that alive as long as they could for their little ones, via Santa. I am not adverse to the Jolly Old Elf. But I’m not a big fan either.
At that time, as we became parents, it was decided that due to my husband’s feelings regarding Santa, and how his upbringing falls into that, he didn’t wish to “do” Santa. I grew up without Santa, and so I was ok with that. Who wants to lie to their kids anyway? If it is a lie, and the magic fades, then all you are left with is this: “What else are my parents lying to me about?!” So we went the truthful route. It was a simple, There was a guy, his name was St. Nicholas, he helped folks, and now everyone pretends he’s still alive, and they call him Santa… Oh, and somewhere along the way he became omniscient, got Reindeer with glowing snouts, and a wife. (Never mind the original Bishop wouldn’t be allowed one! Yikes!)
Now, we look at it from an entirely different perspective. Our choice, outwardly, is the same, but our reasons are very different. Lately I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating the many ways Christians handle Christmas. People can get VERY invested in this particular expression of their faith, and what is seen as accepted culturally, can become a HUGE controversy in one little facebook thread, all between professing Christians.
Some folks go the Puritan route. Christmas wasn’t in the Bible, and it isn’t the date of the true birth of Christ, and it is one of the Catholic Church’s massive achievements of assimilating paganism. So why bother?
Others to a variation on that theme. Celebrating the birth of Christ is nice, and it happens in December, which they’ll go along with. But trees are a pagan expression, and all that rot, so they drop that aspect. Don’t even mention Santa, as it is an anagram for “Satan.”
Then there are folks who do the tree, the ornaments, the decorations, the gifts, but they don’t do Santa. It’s a lie, and Christians don’t lie, so there goes Santa. Plus many struggling Moms and Dads want their kids to appreciate that those presents under the tree are a result of THEIR sweat and blood and tears.
Then, there are those who do it just as everyone else does. Santa is included, with the breakfasts, the photos, the elf on a shelf, magic of Christmas.
So, who is right? Is there a right choice? Is this a big deal? Is there a set way to handle Christmas as Christians? And, is it ok, normal, right, and good to criticize each other? I mean, how many times do we think, let alone say out loud what we are thinking. The snobbery, the spiritual superiority. It all happens, and this is a good little bubble for it to all boil over.
Firstly, as Christians, our first focus is Christ. All throughout the Old Testament, and the New Testament, God’s focus is on HIS Glory, and HIS Son. Prophecy in the Old, Practice in the New. So our focus should be on Christ. On his Coming, His life, his Kingdom. God has a plan for mankind, and for his glory to be revealed in his love for us.
1 John 4:9-11 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Secondly, our job as Christians is to spread the wealth! God loves us, and so we ought to love one another! Yikes! I guess that means the judging, the condescension, and the spiritual superiority is a sin of pride! Time to drop it! Does this mean we all have to celebrate Christmas the same way? Or, that we should all just scrap it as a pagan Holiday turned Christian? I think what scripture calls us to, as believers, is to love one another, and have unity. If not in doctrine, than in spirit, and in love. That means the Pride needs to go out the window. If we see sin, the kind the Bible defines as sin, then yes, from one Brother to another, we should address it in love, but in cases of minor doctrinal differences, a gentle loving approach with a healthy does of humility, is called for.
Ephesians 4:1-7 says:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
These truths led our family to choose to celebrate Christmas with them in mind. We understand that our choices, convictions, etc are not the be all and end all of celebrating Christmas, but we do hold fast to our convictions based on our reading of scripture. In our family, our home, and our celebration, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, and are open to conviction and change that only he can bring. So we have chosen what we do prayerfully, and with a lot of study into God’s Word.
Firstly, when we celebrate Christ’s birth, we want God’s Glory, his plan for mankind, and his Son to be the focus of our Holiday. Second, that loving others and sharing Christ’s gift of grace, mercy, and love, are our priority in that context.
So how do we handle the particulars? We begin with Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks to God for his provision. We focus this on many things, but first of all on God’s provision in ALL areas of life, not just material ones. This prepares our hearts for the Christmas season. It is now that we talk about those who have little, and how we have much, and how we can pass it on.Here are some more specifics:
- Santa is a Fairy Tale based on a real man. There was that real guy, St. Nicholas, who gave gifts out to those who needed them, anonymously. All gifts are from God, and so in this way, he chose to glorify God, who has given us the greatest gift, Jesus Christ. We visit Santa, take pictures with him for the grandparents who want them, and we stop it there.
- Decorations: We decorate traditionally with a tree etc. But, when we do, the FIRST thing we put up is our bunch of Nativities and our advent calender. We focus on Christ, and his part in Christmas this way.
- We do Advent. Every day we read from scripture about Christ, his life, the prophecies concerning him, and we focus on God’s glory and God’s plan. We also try to emphasize acts of love during this time.
- Activities. We keep it simple. Parties are fun, and we do a few, but the main things we make big of are acts of service activities (Operation Christmas Child, donating items to a shelter, or Christian Org. etc etc), buying/making gifts for others, and our Christmas Eve service where we celebrate Christ’s Birth. We don’t kill ourselves to make every party, and we limit how thinly we spread ourselves. The point of Christmas isn’t to buy more, do more, see more, and get more. We feel that by spending time as a family focusing on the quiet peace of the season, our children have time to breathe and reflect on God, his plan, his word, and his son.
- Scripture is the key to all of this. All season we focus on Christ related scriptures. Luke 2 is a biggie. On Christmas morning before we even open presents we act out and recite Luke 2 as a family. Each child has a character from my nativity set. This is the ONLY time they may touch it! As Luke 2 is read/recited, they act out their parts. After we’ve done this, had breakfast, we do presents. This De-emphasizes materialism, and focuses on Christmas’s true meaning.
- Gift requests are compiled at one time. We encourage our children to do requests as a family making a list. We take an afternoon, I look through their things, jot down current sizes. We make it fun, each child gets a turn with me telling me what they need, what they like, and what they wish for more than anything! I write a list of their likes and dislikes, put it all together, and we keep it handy for any relatives who ask what the kids want. It has ideas, options, and suggestions for all price ranges. Anything from less than $1 to more expensive items. The list is categorized by urgent needs, clothing, and toys. For my oldest, who is doing school, she has the extra category. Once that is finished (some time after Thanksgiving) the children are discouraged from making any more requests, unless it is an urgent need. That way we don’t have them asking embarrassing or rude questions or making rude requests. It is all completed, and no longer in focus for the Holiday Season.
So that is how we handle Christmas. Hoping you all have a Merry Christmas, whether Santa is involved or not! 😉