Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. From the carols to the hot chocolate to the lights and the trees, I absolutely loved every single tradition that came with it. I grew up with midnight mass, cookies for Santa, and a living room full of gifts, gifts, and more gifts to cheer about on Christmas morning.
I have wonderful memories of opening presents and playing all day with my sisters in our pajamas, enjoying homemade tamales for lunch. Yes, Christmas was absolutely magical, but embracing its true significance was something I have only recently come to fully understand.
Over the past couple of years, after numerous conversations with my husband, I have found myself stepping back more and more, reconsidering the traditions I once loved in order to determine which ones we wanted to pass on to our children. As our son turned four, then five, then six, we had to decide how we were going to handle “Santa” and whether or not we were going to go overboard with gifts or just allow a few simple treasures.
We had to determine if we were going to invite the elf onto our shelf or the modern-day “Christmas” cartoons into our living room. What exactly about Christmas did we want our children to understand, to know, to embrace? What would draw them closer to understanding that meaning? What would lead them further away? Could we do it all? Or would it be better to keep it simple?
As I searched for answers through these conversations, sermons, and countless blogs, I found a number of different perspectives. One that I wasn’t expecting to find was a Christian push against celebrating Christmas in any shape or form. I knew about the secular push to eliminate everything Christmas with sayings like “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays”, “Winter Festivals” and “Holiday Shopping,” but I had never considered eliminating this holiday as a Christian.
I came to better understand and respect this perspective (and hope not to offend anyone), but I struggled personally with this idea. I asked myself numerous questions and began to dive further in my search for answers. I wanted to know: Would we really be proclaiming His glory on this holy of days if we stood behind this philosophy? Would we be a part of removing all that is now sacred about this day? In the end, what would draw more people to Christ?
I picked up a copy of God Rest Ye Merry and began my personal study of the historical beginnings of the celebration of Christmas. I better understood the political ramifications and the ultimate importance of proclaiming this special day as holy. It is the day our Lord became incarnate; the day He came to earth to save us from our sins; the day that many graciously awaited in fulfillment of the prophecies of those who came before them. It was a day that altered time and changed the world forever.
There was great celebration on this holy of days. The angels glorified His name, and the shepherds left their fields to bow down before the newborn King. The Magi traveled from afar to bring Him valuable gifts and worship Him. The political rulers of this time knew how special this child was; they knew how special this day was. . . . and they did all they could to eliminate it–much like the unbelieving world of today.
I choose, instead, to stand as one of those shepherds, in awe of the morning star that led them to His sleeping place; in awe of the “rising sun” who came to bring us out of darkness, both the Jew and the Gentile. This day is the long awaited day that has stood as the foundation of my faith, our faith. We are happy to embrace, celebrate, and proclaim it. We are moved to share these truths with our children.
This year marked the first year of our family celebration of Advent. I have personally worked through the daily devotions in God Rest Ye Merry and purchased Truth in the Tinsel for our children. Each day we have explored a deeper understanding of the scriptures through reading, discussion, and an ornament craft. The children have pinned their ornaments onto their bulletin boards, and they have served as reminders of the truths we have learned together.
Going through this process with them has also given me more insight into this much-awaited day in history. We are graciously anticipating His arrival alongside the Biblical people of His time. We anxiously await the celebration of the birth of our King.
Another part of Advent that we have begun to explore is the Giving House. Each day serves as an opportunity to give to others in some way, shape, or form. It is a reminder of the selfless love we are called to have for others, and the spirit of giving we should seek to embrace all year through.
Overall, I can truly say that Christmas, for our family, is about Jesus, Our Lord. In Him, we have hope; In Him, we have love. We have the promise and gift of salvation. It is this joy that we share with others this season. When we exclaim “Merry Christmas!”, it is a proclamation of this hope. When we bless others with acts of service, cards, or gifts, it comes from this genuine appreciation of the gift He gave us first. The twinkling lights in our home remind us that He is the light of the world, and the nativity scene and carols we sing allow us to relive the night when we, as a people, were brought out of darkness.
Yes, Christmas, for us, is a time of great joy and celebration, a time when we gather together with family and friends to embrace the very foundations of our faith. We feast. We sing. We pray, and we gift, hug, and share . . . all to proclaim His glory. We keep some things simple in order to fully grasp the profoundness of it all; and in others, we give our all.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end . . . Isaiah 9:6-7
It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
Merry Christmas! May your Christmas be filled with all that is important.