It’s true, i am the Grinch of all things Christmas.
Well, maybe not all things. But christmas carols in October? i literally count the success of my year [in one way] by how late in the year i manage to hear my first christmas carol [Disclaimer: This obviously excludes the Boney M version of ‘Drummer Boy’ and anyone who says otherwise is clearly lying through their teeth, or maybe their barumpumpum-bum]
But between all the ‘Put Christ back into X-mas’ and ‘Christmas is based on pagan festivals’ and ‘Jesus wasn’t even born on the 25th of December’ nonsense, Christmas to me typically has the potential [and the history] to become a big fat mess of commercialism and me-manship [that should so be a word!]
And so, in many ways, i have been more a ‘Bah, humbug’ kind of Christmas spectator than a fully invested enthusiast.
It is possible that the fact that so many of the traditional Christmas foods like mince pies [that is NOT mince in there] or Christmas cake [that is not cake – it is the result of an explosion in a raiSIN and evilness factory covered by icing that is not really icing to make you think it is cake] are so hideous to this squishy-fruit hating guy.
But Christmas does have a special power in the world. Possibly one of the most bizarre stories is of the First World War when the fighting was topped on Christmas day and soldiers crossed the lines to give small gifts to each other and even in at least one case apparently played a football match against the enemy. This to me personifies both the greatness and the ridiculousness of the season as the very next day hostilities were resumed and they went back to murdering each other.
The downright ugliness of last minute Christmas shopping brawls. The insane excess when it comes to the kind of money we can ‘justify’ spending “because it’s Christmas” without feeling any kind of bad. And the aforementioned evil cake of fruitness. New excessive and unnecessary debt. Obligation. Loneliness. And more…
In 2012, i put out a request for people to share some of the creative things they were going to be doing for Christmas and this blog post titled, ‘Christmas for the Masses’ was the result. A lot of people doing a lot of inspiring stuff.
That is when the Grinch in me gets chased down the street and told he is not welcome any more – when we lose a lot of the ME of what Christmas has been from growing up as a young child when it was ALL ABOUT THE PRESENTS to a realisation that it is so much more.
My parents were great at that, although i don’t think i ever picked up the lessons until later, because it was usually lost in the ‘this is affecting my present-opening’ moments. But on Christmas day, after the service, before we got home [and to my presents!] taking vases of flowers around to a number of old people who were going to be spending Christmas by themselves; or inviting people around after the service for coffee and evil Christmas mince pies; or having people who otherwise might spend Christmas by themselves over for our family Christmas eve meal. And so on.
My mom and i started a tradition a few years ago before i left for Americaland, when on Christmas day itself we would make up a whole bunch of sandwiches and buy juice boxes and bags and drive around handing them out to homeless people we found on the streets [fun fact: any time you are actually looking for homeless people on the street, they are the hardest people to find] and this grew to a number of people helping out with money or time and getting involved.
My beautiful wife Valerie [tbV] was the instigator of a number of special Christmas times overseas inviting in friends and strangers to share Christmas with us and creating beautiful traditions to help us celebrate or mourn things from the year that has passed and look for hope and share dreams for the year that is to come.
It is a great time to slow down and remember the Jesus story [whenever He was actually born], how it is announced with the words ‘For God so loved…’ and how Jesus echoed the words ‘You will be known by the love you have for each other’ later, just before He died, with the words, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ A reminder that our love for others is but a pale reflection of all the love He has already shown for us.
A reminder that ‘the love of Jesus’ is a much stronger force than ‘the spirit of Christmas’ and how it should inform and empower our lives and decisions every single day, not simply once a year. A reminder that the football match means nothing if the day before and the day after are filled with killing those you were playing against.
So Christmas itself is not good, bad or ugly. We make it that. Our choices and decisions over the next month determines how life-transforming or simply self-indulgent this year’s celebration will be. And i would love to hear again from you, the traditions and ideas and actions you plan to take this year to bring the YOU firmly into the middle of the season.
Who will you invite? What will you sacrifice? Where will your invitations be extended? What life and joy and hope and peace will you be in the middle of creating for those around you?
After all, Christmas has to be more than this: