Posted by: angelnorman | December 5, 2010

Christmas calling

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas lately, and that’s not to say that I’ve been sitting here planning gift lists or menus or anything like that. No, it hasn’t been a joyous thought process like ones I’ve had in the past. Instead it’s been more of a, “How can I celebrate Christmas this year knowing what I know and believing what I believe?”

I’ve recently been studying the book Radical by David Platt. In it, I have found a wake-up call to Christians everywhere, but of course all I can do is focus on me and change things about myself that God demands I change. Things like overspending on myself and my family and not giving money to the poor. Things like not even really thinking about those less fortunate than me (which I do not think about the majority of the time, except when I’m in prayer and thanking God for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back, or the food on my table; it is in those moments that I am thinking, “I know I could be homeless, naked, and hungry like so many people…” But does that thought ever get me into action? Rarely.) Jesus said very specifically that to follow Him, we must give up whatever it is we re holding onto– our families, our friends, our worldly possessions– and not look back. And Jesus taught us that God demands we listen to His word, that He demands we obey. So of course, here lately, all I’ve been thinking about is how disobedient and how un-Christlike I truly am.

Not that I ever expected to come close to the goodness of Christ. But you know, it is a goal of Christians everywhere to exemplify Christ in all we do, to show the world that we are followers and that our goodness stems from a deep faith in a King that loves unconditionally and is merciful and forgiving. I try to live my life as an example of Christ’s love and kindness. And yes, I do fall short of it, I am aware.

Anyways, so it’s been hard for me to know how to celebrate Christmas after reading what I’ve read and taking it to heart. How can I justify the extra money in this month’s budget being spent on Nick, my own child that I love with all of my heart and want nothing but good things for, when I know that he already has more than he needs and there are children out there with absolutely nothing? How can I justify spending $400 on Mike’s Playstation 3 and his dumb game when I know there are folks out there going hungry? How can I then turn around and also spend another couple of hundred dollars on our 7 parents?

Thinking about it has sucked all the fun out of it, I tell ya. But then, really, Christmas isn’t supposed to be as fun as it is. The fun stuff- the presents, the tree, the decor- all that’s based on Pagan celebrations anyhow. It has nothing to do with Christ. As a matter of fact, nowhere in the gospel does it even indicate that Jesus was born in December. Nowhere do you see a decree that we must celebrate and participate in gift exchanging in honor of  Jesus’s birth on Christmas. We’re only called to participate in baptism and communion. (And I’m pretty sure that we should honor the birth, death, and resurrection of our Savior EVERYday and not just once a year on special holidays.)

But we do these things because those before us did them, and those before them did them, and so on and so on all the way back to whenever Christian officials were outraged by the winter solstice celebrations of the Pagans or the Roman Saturnalia and decided to make their own holiday.

And there you have it, see, this is why I’m torn about Christmas. On one hand, I think, well, I shouldn’t do presents because Jesus wouldn’t want us to celebrate that way. He says very clearly that whatever we do for the “least of these” we do for Him. We help the poor? It is done for Him. We feed the hungry and clothe the naked? Totally for Him. Anything we do for those less fortunate, we may as well be doing for Christ Himself. And then I think, well, since Christmas is not really the birth of Jesus, does He care if I buy my kid anything? Does he care if we spend all our money on ourselves and our families this one holiday that He himself never told us to revere?

But me buying Nick a Nintendo DS… pretty sure that that’s not doing anything for Jesus.

I’ve been working on finding the middle road there. Like I said, I love my child, but I am disgusted with how spoiled he is. And I know I’ve done a lot of the spoiling myself, and that I’ve made my own bed and should lie in it and blah blah blah. I am also disgusted with Mike for wanting something that costs half of our mortgage. I am disgusted with my family for making Christmas all about the presents and the food. I’m disgusted most of all with myself for feeling slightly sorry for myself about the fact that come Christmas morning I won’t have a present under the tree from Mike because I’ve spent all our money buying HIM something… when I know that there are people in this world who will not only not have a present under a tree but who also don’t even have a tree, a house, heat, a family, clothes, food, shelter, or love.

I would feel much better about it if I could get either of my boys to openly talk about Christ and his love and how much they love Him or anything other than “wants” at Christmas time.

I don’t have any answers yet, naturally. I’ve got the Christmas gifts already, but there is an emptiness in my heart. I’m not giving the gifts with the right reasons in mind. I want to give them to my boys and say, “I give you this because God gave me Christ, and the joy in my heart is overflowing!” But I’m not sure it would sink in for them. I’m not sure it’d matter at all because they;d just be so happy to have their stuff.

I hate stuff. I hope no one gets me anything without thinking first, “I am joyful because of God’s love, and that is why I give you this gift, Angel!” I don’t want obligatory gifts. I don’t want my parents to buy me things because they think I need them. I need nothing. I have everything I need already.  And what I want is for Christmas to go back to the basics, and if presents have to be given, for them to be given for the right reasons!

I will leave you with this story by Paul Harvey that I heard while listening to Christmas music on The Fish the other day. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the blog, but it’s a good story.

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.
“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.
And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.
“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.” At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

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Responses

  1. angel! i know it seems totally random that i would end up reading your blog, but it’s finals time which means a lot of random internet-ing.
    anyways, i’m really glad i read this when i did. i have a lot of similar feelings about christmas, though my misgivings don’t have very much to do with christ, i’ll admit.
    but i completely understand your disgust with what christmas has become and what it makes of people.
    three years ago, i stopped celebrating completely. i was so sick of the pure vulgar materialism that christmas inspired. instead of enjoying precious time together, my entire family was stressed beyond belief and grumpy and just plain ugly. you know us, we’ve never been wealthy. heck, we grew up barely above the poverty line. but we still went out of our way to spend money we never had just so we could boast about who bought the better gift. and getting the family together was never as joyful as it was supposed to be. i became so disillusioned with them and with the holiday that i stopped putting up lights, buying presents, wishing folks “merry christmas” – all of it.
    but this year, something felt different. i realized that the beautiful lights and the cheery mood and the crisp cold are all i need out of the holiday, and they aren’t bad. i still refuse to spend money (except on a small tree, because, i have to tell you, i really missed the smell!) and i have refused to come home to celebrate because my family hasn’t quite caught on to my secret.
    anyways, i’m sorry i’ve written a novella here. i was just so glad to see that someone else realizes that christmas needs to be taken back. whether its to christ or simply happiness and joy.
    i hope your boys come around, and i hope you have your own beautiful christmas.

  2. oh honey, you and i are definitely not the only ones who feel this way. for so many, christmas lacks whatever special intimacy it is supposed to have, and there are probably thousands of people feeling exactly like you and me at this very moment. i am not saying we should take much comfort in that as it’s quite sad that a big chunk of the world realizes what you and i have come to realize, but i think it’s sometimes reassuring to know that you’re not alone in your thoughts. (so thanks for responding to the blog in your random interneting :))

    taking christmas back to christ for me is the same as taking christmas back to something that is pure and simple, not too much different than you seeking simple happiness out of the holiday. there is, for me, a Savior to revere, to worship, and to honor. my perfect christmas would consist, honestly, of a small exchange of gifts (heartfelt presents only, and it is all the better if handmade), and lots of family time. there would be caroling and kisses under the mistletoe and snow falling and lots of hot coffee/cider/cocoa… there would be food and games and laughter and love. and at the center of it all, we’d all be feeling the love of Christ and a respect for our Savior.

    i get that one time a year at my grandmother’s house, see, always on christmas eve. some of the family plays cards. some of them sing carols around the piano. then some of them sit in front of the tv and watch “a christmas story” over and over again. the little kids get presents; the adults do a “dirty santa” type exchange. my grandmother lays out some presents she has accumulated throughout the year– avon jewelry, lotions, etc– and lets the ladies go through them. the men get giftcards to a restaurant so they can take their ladies out to dinner in the coming days 🙂 it’s really very simple and laid back.

    outside of a prayer of thanks or in song, we rarely even mention Christ. but still i feel his love there. i feel Him there. He is the unseen guest at our christmas shindig!

    and i want SO bad to have that with the rest of my family– with moma and pat and tiss, with mike’s family. i want my kid to experience that in our home.

    but time and time again, i see my boys ignoring what christmas means, and that’s not to say that i expect nick to be all jesus-freaky at 6-years old. but i would like him to acknowledge jesus more than santa. i would like him to be appreciative of little things like simple togetherness or freshly baked cookies or his mama putting up the tree and decorating the house… ’cause i do those things for him! and i want a simple laidback christmas for him! i want to carry on the christmas traditions that i grew up with at my grandmother’s house for nick! i want his children to have the kind of thing i have at my nanny’s! and i don’t see why that is so hard. i know we’re a young family and we’re small and it’s going to take some time to have our traditions plant their roots.

    but by God, i see them going the complete opposite direction, focusing so much on spending all our $ on things no one really NEEDS, not taking the time to stop and think about the kids who have nothing, not stopping to give thanks for how lucky they are… and it disgusts me.

    i hope you have your own beautiful christmas too, my love, and an abundance of blessings in the coming year. love you!


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