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