That is a question that has been turning in my head for over a week now. It all began Thanksgiving night when Amy and I were driving back from Nash-Vegas and began talking about Christmas. I know we should focus on Thanksgiving and not rush things talking about Christmas that early, but if retailers can have Christmas decorations up in August, we can discuss Christmas on Thanksgiving!
Let me first share some important background: Both of us are striving (or possibly meandering) toward a simpler lifestyle that is not hampered down by materialism, the American Dream, etc. She’s been a patient listener to my frustrations (read: utter disgust) with American politics, materialism, and the greed that makes capitalism work. We have discussed at length with others how to cultivate and keep a simple lifestyle and how to overcome the greed and materialism which we find so pervasive in our own lives. Simply put (no pun intended), we honestly desire to live a life that is more focused and that derives its meaning and purpose from Jesus the Christ than from stuff and other people.
That being said let us return to our discussion of Christmas. We have already discussed the “Santa Issue” and have previously decided not to teach our future offspring about Jolly Ole’ Saint Nick. We did not want to perpetuate the underlying thought of Santa: the Gift of Christmas (gifts of Christmas) will only come to good boys and girls. We did not want our children to feel like they have to earn our love or God’s love.
So…once again, back to our discussion of Christmas. The discussion was basically this: how can we avoid being caught in the materialism/commercialism of Christmas? In these postmodern times, Christmas is little more than a secular holiday in which we give bigger and better gifts than last year. I know this is a generalization, but I find myself, even if only a small part of me, caught in this frame of mind. The season begins earlier each year with more and more specials created to generate more revenue. Americans run up hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars of debt so that their families can have a happy Christmas. Christmas for so many is just a day for getting more stuff. It is not Christmas…it is X-Mas.
How can we avoid being caught in the materialism/commercialism of Christmas? I suggested forgoing gift giving and focusing on Christ. Amy disagreed and raised a valid point being raised about not offending family and friends by not giving or receiving gifts. It was then that I began asking questions aimed at our motivations:
Why do we give gifts at Christmas?
Why do we decorate at Christmas?
Why do we use these kinds of decorations at Christmas?
Why do we spend time with our families at Christmas?
Why do we celebrate Christmas?
The obvious answers are because it's what we do...it's what we always have done. The POMO (with a P - postmodern) in me hates that answer. Tradition for tradition's sake is useless at best and dangerous at worst. I do not want to answer my children's questions with a simple because. A meaningless answer is the result of meaningless reasons, traditions and, eventually, holidays. When they ask why we give gifts I want to say, "Oh, sweet child of mine, because we...."
These questions are important because the answers show us what Christmas is all about. If we gift gifts because we always have...do we celebrate our Saviour's birth because we always have? If we put up decorations because they look pretty and we like them...do we honor Christ because He's pretty and we like Him? If we spend time with families because it’s expected and makes us feel good…do we celebrate Christ because it’s expected and makes us feel like we’re doing the right thing?
Trust me, I am not saying we should abolish Christmas. I honestly love this time of year. I love Christmas movies, Christmas songs, Christmas smells…I do love the sounds, smells and sights Christmas dearly, but I have to address my motives behind those loves. Do I love them because of nostalgia (which is not bad), or do I love them because they lead me to reflect on God's Great Gift in Jesus the Christ? I think gifts, decorations, etc. can lead us to reflect upon Christ as long as our motivations for those things reflect Christ.
Amy and I are journeying toward Christ this Christmas. We’re not sure how we’ll get there or even when. We’ll probably start new traditions and continue others. We’re asking these questions to ourselves and other people. On Facebook, I am posing each of these questions, once a week, to get people’s answers. On this blog, I hope to do the same each week and give my thoughts and hopefully hear and post yours as well. My goal is that together, as friends and family, we can truly see Christ this Christmas.