Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . The Real Spirit of Christmas

A couple weeks ago, my kids said something that got me thinking. We were in the van, heading somewhere or another, talking about how Christmas is coming soon. Rowyn asked what day of the week it was on, and Xoe said, "Thursday. Hey, that means that in a couple years, it'll be on church day! Won't that be cool? I can't think of a better way to celebrate Christmas than going to church."

She didn't realize how she hit me. How those words would echo with me. On the one hand, I'm saying, "Yay, my daughter gets it! She gets the real reason for Christmas! She's thinking about Jesus!"

On the other hand, I'm knowing some severe guilt. Why? Because never in my life have I gone--nor wanted to go--to church on Christmas. Christmas Eve, yes. Of course. Always. But Christmas? No way. Christmas is for family time. Breakfast. Dinner. Presents. Christmas is for gathering with those I love and...and...and what?

When did the church part get pushed out of the day? Maybe it started as anticipating, bringing it in...maybe we can say "Well we don't even know what day Jesus was born on, so why does it matter when we go to church to celebrate it?" But if it doesn't matter...if it's meant to lead us to focus on him...why not give Him the day we give Him? Why do we push him to the night before, to an obligatory reading of Scripture, to a single candle lit and forgotten?

What if I'm wrong, have been wrong all my life? That's what my husband and I were talking about later that same week. What if--brace yourselves--what if Christmas isn't about family?

That's the message in the feel-good movies, right? It's a time of hope. Of giving. Of embracing that Christmas spirit. It's a time of believing in the impossible. Of miracles (which may or may not include Santa). It's a time for drawing close to those you love.

Only...it's not. Or shouldn't be. I'm not saying Christmas shouldn't include those things...but shouldn't it be a spiritual holiday? Shouldn't I be thinking more about the miracle of God becoming man than a snowman coming to life? Shouldn't the Christmas story be more than an obligatory reading? Shouldn't I be more focused on preparing my heart for God than in preparing the presents for under the tree?

I've heard it all, read it all, said it all before...and then changed nothing. We still go out shopping and spending and asking our kids to make Christmas lists. We make them write down every thing they want and don't have--and then get frustrated when they're more focused on presents than Him. When they get upset if they don't get what they ask for.

This year, something's going to change in my house. For starters, no lists! This one has really struck me this year. I am absolutely, 100% not going to have my kids focus on what they want. I don't want Christmas to be about what they want. I don't, frankly, want it to be about what presents they're giving (though that's better). I want the focus to be on what they've already gotten. What has already been done. A celebration of the most amazing gift mankind has ever received.

We got God, y'all. In the flesh. Putting aside his deity to take on the fragile bones and sinews of a helpless little baby. I'm sorry, but a talking dragon toy ain't got nothin' on that.

This year, the few gifts we get our kids will be given to them on Christmas Eve. Yes, we're still celebrating the joy of the holiday by trying to bring joy to those we love--within reason. We're decorating, because celebration is important. But that will be our lead-in, not our what-we've-led-up-to. Christmas Day, we're going to focus on Him. I've asked the kids to come up with things they'd like to do Christmas morning to celebrate Jesus.

They want to sing. 

They want to pray.

They want to read the Christmas story.

They want to have written their own Christmas stories and read them to us.

They want to make a gift for Jesus.

They want to make a cake (or pancake) for Him.

That will be our morning, then we'll go spend time with the rest of the family. First though, we're going to get grounded. We're going to lift our hearts and spirits to Him. We're going to make sure we're not making an idol of the holiday.

Because I really, really don't want the day that we set aside to celebrate Jesus becoming man to become a tool of the enemy. I really, really don't want that enemy cackling over how he's managed to cheapen it, even among the Church--especially among the Church. I don't want my God in heaven to be looking on us with mourning, wondering why our families are more important than His.

Like all the best lies, there's a kernel of truth in the way I've always done things. Family is important. The celebration is important. The cheer, the joy, the spirit is important. But not as important as the Spirit. Not as important as the why behind the celebration. Not as important as the Father who gave us this gift, the Brother with whom we're joint-heirs to the kingdom.

This year, we're not just talking about the Reason. This year, we're changing things. And for the first time in...well, maybe ever...I'm excited to think, not about what gifts or parties or songs there might be, not about what I'm going to do--this year, I'm excited to think of what God might do among my family this Christmas.

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