Ramblings on the fat guy in the red suit….

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I apologize in advance if this post seems a bit “Grinchy”, but here goes……

Lately I’ve been feeling sort of heavy about Christmas.  Now I’m not talking about the real Christmas…..not at all! That one makes my heart swell – in joy, anticipation, gratitude.  That one makes my mind race – “what can I do? where can I help? how can I share?……”

No.  The Christmas I’m talking about is the one where people camp out for days before Thanksgiving under parking lot lights, all in hopes of saving some bucks on the newest gotta-have gadget.  The one where coupons and advertisements for more “stuff” bombard my mailbox daily, making me go on a scavenger hunt for Christmas cards from loved ones.  It’s the Christmas where I hear pop singers belt out a beautiful verse of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and I wonder if they really believe the words they are singing – Remember Christ our Saviour was born upon this day –  or are they just trying to get airtime during the holiday months?

Honestly I never thought about a lot of this stuff before these last couple of years.  I just “did” Christmas like I always had.  Gave lots of gifts to family and friends.  Shopped too much.  Spent too much.  Stayed too busy.  Squeezed in a church service here and there…..you know, so I could remember what it was really all about.

But then I read this book, and my heart shifted a bit.

And then I started attending this church.  And they’re all about service.  How can I serve my community? How can I help my neighbors? How can I not just talk about God’s love, but act on it?  Geez! It was like they actually wanted me to do the things this guy always talked about.

And then I became good friends with this girl.  And she’s all about coming up with new ideas for doing less for ourselves and more for others.  For getting the spotlight off of our selfish desires and putting it where it belongs…..on the King of Kings.  And she’s real about it – never high and mighty……a soapbox nowhere in sight.  Kind of humble actually.  The kind of humility that pulls you in and wants you to get in on whatever she’s doing. Which isn’t really about her of course.  It’s all about Him.

And ahhhh yes…..Him.  Jesus.  The one who owns my heart.  The one who continually draws me near, no matter what I’ve done.  The one who generously gives an endless supply of joy, forgiveness, peace, and grace.  All those words that seem so weak when I type them, and yet the power they have over my life is so strong.  I know no other way to describe Him.  But He is mine and I claim him as my savior.  And the celebration of his birth is the reason I get excited for Christmas.

And now I find myself questioning something I never thought in a million years I would ever think twice about (don’t want to be one of those people, ya know?) –  Santa Clause.  You see, I have a sweet little 4 year old girl.  My beautiful Bailey girl.  And she’s got this inquisitive little brain that soaks up most everything thrown its way from the annoying Calliou theme song to the way I discipline her younger sister. (Which yes, she likes to think she’s a mama sometimes and tell her little sis, “No throwing your food! You go to time-out!”).  And now it’s Christmas time and the Santa stuff is starting…..the questions and the explaining.

And please, PLEASE, do not think I have anything against the big fat jolly guy in the red suit. I don’t!  And please, PLEASE, don’t think I’m judgmental about families who fully support the Santa stuff. I’m not!  And like I said, never thought I’d be questioning it myself, but here I am.  Questioning the whole point and validity of Santa.

For one thing, I really, really don’t want my girls to grow up and get all caught up in the materialism of the world.  Thinking they need certain “things” to be happy or fulfilled.  Thinking they must have what everyone else around them has.  Thinking it’s all about them and they’re entitled to more stuff, stuff, stuff.  Ugh!  All that makes my stomach turn.  And it’s not that we don’t give them gifts- we do at the right times and for special occasions of course- but it’s not one of the main ways we show them our love.  Not at all.

So if I don’t want to materially spoil them, then why have the Santa story?  I mean, here’s a guy who comes down the chimney to shower you with presents just because?  And sure, I know I could do the whole “but you have to be good, he’s watching you….” thing to ensure they act good to get presents.  But doesn’t that message entirely go against the belief system I want to instill in their hearts?  Here- be good and you can “earn” good things….all about works and merit.  And Santa’s always watching.  But that’s not what I believe.  I believe the only one always watching is Christ.  And He gives NOT based on works and good deeds, but entirely on free and undeserved grace.

And listen, I know I am delving WAY too deep into all this and thinking WAY too much about it.  I know.  But these thoughts are here in my heart and head and I can’t quite shake them.

And I also know that Santa is just for fun and a good story and why take that excitement away from the girls.  And I hear that argument in my head and it logically makes sense.  But then I think “But isn’t the real story just as exciting?  Even more so???  Is the birth of our Savior so dull that we need another invented one just to make the holidays fun and full of meaning??”  To me, Santa just seems to be another method of plugging the “me-me-me” mentality of America and its materialism.  And another way to pull the attention off of what really matters.  Or rather, who really matters.  And Bailey is at the age of taking it all in and forming her opinions of the world and of herself.  If that’s the case, why not feed her just the truth?  Why cloud her little mind with a lie that does nothing to promote any of the values or beliefs that we hope she one day takes as her own?

Again- probably over-thinking it.  I know.  But here are some of the facts…..a sort of comparison in my feelings about things that center over the “Santa” Christmas, versus the real Christmas:

  • On the same day my mom asked for a Christmas wish list from us, we got this in the mail.  Gotta admit- coming up with things we wanted was much less exciting than choosing between a pig or a cow.  And the stark contrast between our list of toys and books and their list of medical supplies and clean water……yeah, that cut me right to the core.
  • Starting this year we’ve set a limit of 3 gifts per girl for Christmas.  It’s what Jesus got, so why should they get more??  And honestly, it’s been way more fun shopping for those 3 gifts than for the 10ish or so gifts I got each of them last year. (We are also getting them 3 little stocking stuffers, so i guess it’s more like 6).
  • I’ve been spending less time in the stores this year and more time planning a party to benefit this place.  And though I’m a typical girl who loves to shop (really, i do!) –  coming up with party ideas to help out these girls has been way more fun!
  • Getting excited to put my love for baking (with Bailey!) to use and hand out some cookies to some of our neighbors.  A lot of them are elderly and live alone, so I hope seeing our munchkins and eating some homemade goodies will make their day.  I’m sure it’ll make mine! (and my hips will thank me for not hoarding all the sweets like i usually do) 🙂

I’m really not sharing all this to show what amazing things I am doing in the world.  Ha – hardly! Number one- nothing I’m doing is really all that amazing.  And number two – if anything, it’s really sad that after calling myself a Christian for almost 2 decades, I’m just now beginning to truly understand what that means in regards to serving and being obedient to His will.  But praises to Him, that He never gives up and is constantly teaching and leading and giving us chance after chance.

But all this to say, I think it’s easy for Christmas to become an overly-busy, overly-materialized, overly-stressed out time of the year where our focus is taken off Him and totally put in the wrong place- us!  And I’m just now starting to find ways to really enjoy the true joy of the holiday- of celebrating the Christ King.  The one who comes, not to give us more “stuff” because we’re good or because we deserve it, but rather to give us Life Abundant!  And just because He loves us!  And where Santa fits into all that…..I don’t know yet.  Steve and I are still talking about it and trying to figure it out.  I’m thinking maybe I’ll do some research on the real St. Nicholas and we’ll put that slant on it for the girls.  Maybe.  Or maybe we’ll just hardly bring it up at all, like we’ve been doing this year, and instead just focus on baby Jesus in the manager and share that story with her in any way we can.  Or maybe we’ll just give up on Santa completely.  We’ll see…..

So what are your thoughts on all this?  How do you celebrate Christmas?   How do you keep the holidays from getting off focus and overwhelming?  What sort of traditions do you have?  What do you do with the whole Santa thing, if you’re a Christian?  I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say……

P.S. – my friend Melanie shared this link that expresses what i was trying to say in this post. just way more concisely and elegantly! 🙂 – read if you get a chance! Christmas vs. Christmastime

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10 responses »

    • what a great link Melanie!!! she says what i was feeling much better! thank you for sharing! and i like some of her ideas……gives me something to think about!

  1. First, you are never Grinchy.

    How I celebrate Christmas seems to change as I change.

    When we were first married, Christmas was about our new house and new things and life together. Then we had kids, and it was about the kids, and will they remember this and are they enjoying it?

    Then, I started feeling as if I was missing something. Even though I went to church and gave and celebrated Jesus in our home, He wasn’t the focus (um, still working on this one). Now, I’m at the point that I’m changing, but old habits are hard. How do I convince the extended family that spending hundreds on gifts isn’t what we want? How do we explain to the kids that even though their friends are getting ipods, that they are getting a board game?

    It’s tough, but one thing I’m thankful for are the families around me that are wrestling with the same issues (like you!). You are challenging me to think and do things in different ways, and that is something I deeply appreciate.

    Love you, friend. Off to check out the link.

    • gotta say- i really like your point about Christmas changing as we change. i mean, if Christmas is about Christ, and Christianity is about a relationship w/him……then it only seems natural for it to change. to grow, to learn, to evolve. be different from year to year, just like any relationship. i really like that approach…..don’t have to have all figured out right now (ha!), but just allow God to change me as he sees fit over the years.

      and yes, i am thankful for families like yours too! what would i do w/o ru and amelia in my life??? oh and you and shane are all right too! 🙂

  2. I think more Christians struggle with this more than they are willing to admit.

    When I was growing up Santa was surely a big part of the celebration. It was a fun treat to go and sit on his lap with my list in hand. But when I think back on what I remember, there are many more special memories that I hold more dear than Santa.

    * I went Chrismas caroling with the senior high sunday school class my dad taught. We went to alot of the elderly homes. It was the best!
    * Our church had a “live” nativity scene on the lawn of the church, animals and all.
    * Chrismas eve service, dripping candles and all, singing Silent Night.
    * Hunting for those one of a kind Chrismas presents to somehow express how much I loved the recipient

    But the very best memory of all was on Christmas eve after church, after opening that one gift we could open on Christmas eve, my dad would read the Chrismas story from his bible. I can still see him sitting in his chair articulating each word with his rich baritone voice.

    So for me and my experience, Santa could not in any way take the attention or attraction off my Lord and Savior’s birth. And I know that in your household it will be the same!

    • mom- even though i feel like you and dad always give us WAY too many presents, the way you do it…..all about finding just the right one to surprise us or represent our relationship or something special…..it truly becomes about the thought and love behind the gift, rather than the pile of presents under the tree. giving gifts is definitely a big love language for you! 🙂 but more than any material thing, you and dad have always spoiled us w/nothing but love and i am just so grateful for that and hope to pass it along to our little ones.

      thank you for sharing your memories of Christmas…..of course my favorite is the last one. i miss him so much.

  3. I love this phrase:

    “And sure, I know I could do the whole “but you have to be good, he’s watching you….” thing to ensure they act good to get presents. But doesn’t that message entirely go against the belief system I want to instill in their hearts? Here- be good and you can “earn” good things….all about works and merit. And Santa’s always watching. But that’s not what I believe. I believe the only one always watching is Christ. And He gives NOT based on works and good deeds, but entirely on free and undeserved grace”

    I’ve been struggling with this as well and Connor isn’t even one! I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who is also bombarded with all of these thoughts.

    And, when it comes to gift giving to our family – I struggle with getting them what is on their wish list as opposed to donating that money to a charity in their name (what I really want to do). I guess I’m too worried about their happiness in opening a gift of their choice and fearful that they’ll be disappointed to only see a card that says they were honored by giving to someone who really needs something. (I need to work on that…)

    I LOVE your post and challenging words. Thanks, friend.

    • liz- i definitely feel you on the struggle about getting a “real” gift vs. a contribution to a charity or something like that. if it helps, i have only done it one time and it went over SO much better than i expected! it was for mother’s day last year and we got my mom and mother-in-law gifts of a birthing kit to be donated in their names. so really they just opened a letter explaining the gift and the need for it. i was worried that little envelope wouldn’t be a real enough gift, but they both really loved and appreciated it! don’t think i’d do it all the time, but it felt right then and i’m so glad i did it! makes me want to do it again!

  4. I am sitting here reading your blog as I dread having to get out in the mess and pick up some last minute gifts!!
    I agree with your mom. We had our fair share of Santa and gifts growing up too, but my favorite Christmas memories are being in the Christmas play at church, helping pick out toys for another girl my age each year for operation Christmas child, and getting so excited to play with my cousins at our family Christmas.
    I am positive you will find that same balance with your girls.You and Steve do such a great job with them, I can’t ever see them getting spoiled or too caught up in the material things.It sounds like you are exposing them to the right people and activities and they will catch on to what is/isn’t important.
    Hope I get to see you guys VERY soon!!

    • stacy- you are always such a great encourager! can you just live inside my pocket and i can just pull you out whenever i feel down or confused??? 🙂

      and i didn’t know you did operation christmas child! that is awesome! and on my list for next year for sure! wanted to this year, but just can’t do it all…..and that’s ok!

      can’t wait to see you either!! and the cutest little baby boy on the planet!

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