Wilder Life: December 2015
12/08/2015 08:00AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
How We Lost Christmas And Where We Can Find It
By Amanda Jean Harris
Christmas is sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for my mom to finish wrapping the last present. (Do NOT come down those stairs until you are told to come down those stairs on Christmas morning.) It’s matching pajamas and grazing on too many desserts too many days in a row before eating too much at one big meal. It’s celebrating the Savior born on earth — Jesus Christ humbling himself and coming into this sin-drenched world among the lowliest in a straw-littered stable.
It’s weekends at Grandma’s house with the cousins. No school. Wishing to be kissed under mistletoe and praying for snow. It’s a new bike. It’s my mom’s little pin that she wore on her scrubs that said “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and her singing “Somewhere It’s Snowing” for the church solo.
Some years it was a Cabbage Patch doll (the biggest best gift ever from Grandma, of course.) It was that special citrus punch. And it was Santa Claus for about five minutes. More importantly it was the older kids trying to keep the magic alive for my youngest sister as long as possible. I think I heard something on the roof. I did; I did for sure. You hear that? Obviously reindeer hooves. Was that a bell? It was so a sleigh bell.
We said “Happy Holidays” sometimes because it’s one big mishmash of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas and New Year’s in one giant marathon of food and family. And other times we said Merry Christmas. Our Christmas was a card with the family signature (also known as my mom on Dec. 20-something with her address book out furiously addressing envelopes in her regular normal handwriting without a calligraphy pen.) No photo shoots with matching outfits. No airbrushing during my acne-prone teen years.
As I was interviewing people for a story about cultural traditions for the holidays they said something that struck right in the middle of my Christmas-loving heart. It resonated in that spot that cringes at the overkill. I love Christmas. I love it so, so very much. In the last few years, however, it’s felt kind of like a big circus, a big scam, a giant homogenized display of wealth (even when we don’t have any.)
Compared to some people I have felt nearly Scrooge-like in spite of my deep love for the Christmas season. These two men I interviewed gave words to what I had been feeling all along. They used words like “consumer-driven,” “commercialized.” They spoke of how most of what we call a “tradition” is very new. They didn’t speak of a “War on Christmas” or even much about Jesus by name.
They spoke frankly of how far we have come from a celebration that was about religious observance and family. They spoke of how gifts were purposefully bought or made, of how they were useful and even utilitarian. And this was a good thing. It still should be a good thing.
I think of my own childhood. I am but 36 years old. And what Christmas looked like then versus now. We’ve come a long way and I think we’ve lost a lot.
I don’t know if it’s social media, easier access to credit cards or perhaps we all think we are our own version of the Kardashians. But, things are out of hand. This out-of-hand lifestyle has become the norm 365 days a year. It’s nothing for an average couple to have a gender reveal that costs as much as a small wedding. Or for a mom to go into debt just to give her child “a good birthday party” complete with live character performances and goodie bags the likes of which were on the level of the actual gifts we received as children. It’s all kind of wrong. But, we go along with it. We covet the Pinterest-worthy fetes and it all starts to feel kinda’ normal.
But, at Christmas time it feels garish and even more out of place. It is the happiest time of year. And yet, we are over burdened, over scheduled and over spent. And I am over it.
I hear way too much about how this holiday has lost its meaning. How there is a “War on Christmas.” Here is the painful truth from the pen of a God-fearing, church-attending, Christmas-loving woman: Christmas didn’t lose its meaning when a few people said they would rather not see overt religious symbols. It lost its foundational cornerstone when the people who were celebrating it as such got distracted by something shiny. Quite literally.
While we were standing in line at four in the morning for a flat screen. While we were figuring out which bills we could pay late in January. While we were flipping off that driver on Johnston Street by the mall. While we were showing our children with our actions that Christmas is about a perfect collection of stuff while with our words claiming it’s all about Jesus. We got lost.
I remember very few gifts from my childhood. I remember years I didn’t get the thing I wanted so desperately. What that was? I’ll probably never be able to recall. I do remember hearing again and again in different ways the story of Jesus born in a manger. I do remember feeling loved by the time our family spent together.
I knew Jesus was what it was all about and I enjoyed the gifts we received. Thoughtful gifts, meaningful gifts. Not a massive hulking mountain of gifts my parents couldn’t afford.
Let us stop feeling as though going into debt and killing ourselves to fulfill a child’s Christmas list is the standard whatever the cost. Let us stop feeling as though anything less than the abundance of gifts and perfectly decorated doors is pitiful. As though our children are deprived. The kids are going to be okay. In fact, this new way of doing Christmas the old way just may be the best thing for them.
Giving less for Christmas doesn’t mean our children are getting less. For the first time, let’s take that fruitless energy and aim it straight at them. Let us give of ourselves more than ever. Let us point them to Christ and what His arrival means.
The tangible gifts and the money are actually the easy thing. Maybe that’s why we allow them to distract us. Giving of ourselves and sharing the gospel is the hard part. And it’s the thing that people will never forget. It’s the one thing our children will never forget. And it’s the one and only gift they truly need.
Check out www.adventconspiracy.org/ for a concise and easy how-to on taking back your time, your sanity and your Christmas.