Over the years I’ve always prided myself on keeping a proper perspective on the holidays. We avoid “Black Friday” like the plague. There is nothing on the planet I want so bad that I’m willing to descend into that boiling cauldron of fleshly paganism to get it. In every way we can think of, we’ve always tried to de-emphasize the commercial side of Christmas.
And not just avoiding that aspect, we purposefully concentrate on the spiritual side of things. Our family has for years used an “Advent Chain” to help us daily remind ourselves of the true meaning of this celebration. There are 25 links in the chain, one for each day in December leading up to the big day, and each link has a Scripture reading or a hymn or some object lesson to remind us of God’s gracious gift in Christ. Each night during family worship, we take down one link and count our way to Christmas.
Of course, being a pastor, I’m maybe more conscious of all this because I’m also preparing messages for the church in which we seek to remind folks to keep a proper perspective as well. So, in all, I’ve always thought my Christmas mindset was pretty good.
Until this year. Like so many others, we find ourselves a bit short on holiday cash, and so I’ve been trying to figure out what we’re going to do for each of the kids in keeping with the limited budget. And I found myself thinking in terms of feeling guilty because I wasn’t going to be able to “get” them more “stuff.” And the thought hit me: I’m just as much bitten by the bug of materialism as so many out there I’ve often condemned.
Since when did Christmas become about getting something; either in the sense of receiving a gift or even giving one to others? Who says it’s about gifts anyway? Our kids have never been the spoiled “I want, I want” types, praise God. So why am I so bothered by not being able to “get” them “stuff.” Maybe they’ve learned the lesson better than Dad.
In thinking about it, I began to really examine my own thoughts and see just how much the “pagan” side of Christmas has really invaded my thinking. And sadly, I see much more of it there than I really want to admit; so much based merely on “tradition” rather than any true meaning.
I don’t want to fill up this space with the “history of Christmas” so as to show how pagan much of the roots of our celebrations are; just as I don’t want to just ring that old “Keep the Christ in Christmas” bell that we sound so often at this time of the year.
I guess I just want to do a little confessing (confession is, after all, good for the soul, right?). And maybe just offer a little encouragement to others out there in a twofold way. One, be careful how judgmental you are of all those materialistic “pagans” out there, because at heart you may be more like them that you realize. And two, maybe we ought to all do a little reexamining of our motives in all we do, not just at Christmas. Are we doing things simply because “that’s the way it’s done?” Or is there a genuine and biblical motive behind it, seeking God’s glory in all things.
As for me, I’m going to get over the guilt of the gift giving shortage and work on getting my own heart right before God. Maybe I’ll talk with my kids and let them teach me a bit about it. And then I’ll spend a great deal of time on my knees thanking God for the amazing grace He’s given in Christ, and let that thought drown out all others for His glory. After all, I do believe that gift is the one we’re supposed to be concentrating on to begin with, right?
In the spirit of all this, and just for fun, here’s a little Calvin and Hobbes (one of our family’s favorites. Thanks to my daughter for pointing this one out). Enjoy.