Ok, ladies, this one is for you. You do not see any of the guys out there feeling guilt during the Christmas season….at least, I don’t hear them talking about it with the guys over a beer after work. “Yea, Jim, I am really trying to make sure we find some balance this Christmas…teach the kids the true meaning of Christmas, while still giving them the over-the-top, magical Christmas of their dreams.” “I know what you mean, Fred. I struggle this time of year to find the right charity to support, get everyone the special gift on their list and still stay within our financial means, decorate the house as extravagantly as our neighbors, and bake or make home-made gifts for the teachers, the coaches, the piano teachers, etc.”
Ladies, this one is solely our territory. And, if you are trying to live your life as a Christian light in a dark world, we often add an additional layer of guilt over the Christmas experience. We worry that we aren’t doing Christmas “right.” Here are a couple of my annual favorites…This will be the year that our family makes a homemade Advent wreath. We will then light a candle each Sunday of Advent while we read a lovely Advent devotional….yeah, well maybe next year. Ok then, this year we will remember the true meaning of the season by giving what we would have spent on each other to a worthy charity and only giving each other 3 gifts like the wise men…3 gifts, well maybe just 4…or 5.
I’ve observed that many of us who profess to live for Christ 24/7/365 feel a need to overly “represent” during the holiday season. Whence the pressure? I would like to stake my claim here and say that we don’t have to worry that no one will understand Christmas unless we continually reexplain it. The apostle Peter tells us to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. This presumes that someone is asking about the hope the hope we possess. It’s much better when someone asks about your faith; it means they actually want to know and are ready to listen because of some quality that emanates from Christ living in you; not because you have decorated with the most overtly “Christian” ornaments.
Who on earth decided to embrace this pile of expectation and add yet another opportunity to feel like abject spiritual failures if we don’t imbue every moment with meaning? Can I just peel that monkey off your back for a moment? I find it hard to believe that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father getting all bothered that we aren’t meeting some unwritten standard of properly celebrating the season. Note: it is spiritual by virtue of whose birth it is we are celebrating.
If you want to express your love for your family with extravagant gifts and you can afford to do so, then by all means lavish them as the Father lavished us with the gift of His son and as wise men brought extravagant gifts from afar. If you want to feast with your friends and family to celebrate the gift that they are in your life, go for it! If your heart of compassion compels you to take up your proverbial towel and serve, then go forth to the homeless shelter, serve dinner and distribute gifts of clothing and blankets. Should you choose to purchase no presents and give your money to fund an endeavor that engages your passion, give with all your heart! If you want to invite your neighbors over and extend to them the gift of hospitality, do so with gusto! If you want to bake cookies with your children and smear icing all over your noses and laugh until you cry, do it—and don’t worry that your activities are not “spiritual” enough. That kind of thinking only kills the very joy and freedom that Christ came to give us.
If Christ lives in you 365 days a year, you don’t have to be any more “Christian” during the Christmas season. In fact, it is impossible to pull off.
More thoughts later on enjoying Christmas. Ladies, everyone take a deep breath…we will get through this!