As you can tell from my last post, I’ve been thinking a bit about Christmas lately. What makes it good? What makes it frustrating, annoying, or “bad?”
I used to go to a church that had a Christmas morning service. The preacher encouraged people to just sort of “get out of bed, open your gifts, and show up,” even starting a tradition of bringing kids still in their PJ’s. Nice idea! Certainly more practical than expecting people all decked out in their Sunday best. He would ask all the kids who were there to come to the front of the church, and then we’d all sing happy birthday to Jesus — literally, using the song and everything. After church, there’d be birthday cake, which was mostly for the kids, but I think more than a few adults indulged in a piece! I used to enjoy those times, although it did seem a little superficial. Having no tradition of Christmas of my own to refer to, I had no historical background, so I guess I was a bit more analytical than most.
So I’ve come to one conclusion: I think one thing that’s so annoying about Christmas is that “yay, Jesus is here!” attitude. If Christmas is supposed to be the time we celebrate Jesus’ birth, why is that all we celebrate? If my friends wanted to celebrate my birthday in a big way, I hope they would say more than “hey, you showed up!” Wouldn’t it be nicer if they said “we love you. You are great! You are funny, warm, caring, honest…” appreciating me for who I am.
This reminds me of when people congratulate a man for the birth of a new baby! For Pete’s sake, he did none of the work! He just got to have fun once! The woman did all the work — enduring morning sickness and all the changes to her body, feeling bloated and later just plain heavy, and of course, the big finale, birth! That’s no party! So next time you want to express joy at the arrival of a new baby, focus on the woman! But I digress.
The second part of the Christmas attitudes that baffles me is the “oh, I’m so glad he was born so he could die for me.” Do people think about the baby’s death at the baby shower? Do you talk about that? Hmmm, I don’t. “Geez, he sure is adorable, I hope he doesn’t die in a car crash. That would be tragic.” Or, alternately, if you’re remembering someone’s life, you don’t focus on the very end, do you? “Grandma sure suffered at the end, didn’t she? Oh, she tried to be strong, but those last couple of months were rough. Too bad she couldn’t talk because of the stroke.” Nope, in my family, when we talk of Grandma, we remember her pickled carrots (the best!), her grilled cheese sandwiches, her “get up and go” attitude, her positivity, her independence after Grandpa died, and how she shoveled her own walk — even swept it! — until the last year or so when we convinced her to hire a neighbour boy to do it. We don’t talk about the circumstances of her birth or her death — we talk about all that happened in between.
So, if you’re a Jesus-celebrating person, I hope I’ve given you something to think about. He was awesome. He was so loving to everyone he met. He did miracles, with ease. He had a beautiful spirit. I’d like to be more like him.
But I’m still not really “celebrating” Christmas. Not the way most do.