Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The True Meaning of Christmas

So my week of no Twilight blogging is over. It was actually over yesterday, and I was all set to do an obnoxiously over-the-top Twilight blog, just because I could, but, well.....LIFE IS CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh my goodness. I have never in my life felt so stressed out at Christmastime. To the point where I am crabby, irritable, borderline depressed...not exactly the picture of holiday cheer. My headache has reached a new level and is frequently making me so sick to my stomach that I am having to miss out on yuletide activities.

This is so wrong! This is NOT what Christmas is all about! (Warning: Stepping up on my soap box now) I have been thinking about this a lot lately. As I lay in my bed nursing my head and just wishing life would slow down, I have plenty of time to think, and I can't help but see the irony in all of this. Why do we have Christmas? To celebrate the birth of Christ, the most humble, non-elaborate, simple birth ever to take place. To celebrate the life of a man who devoted His life to serving others and serving God. He had no need for material things, nor any desire to have any. Why then, why-oh-why, is the central-most focus of this holiday PRESENTS. SHOPPING. BUYING.

I know why. I know it is to represent the gifts the Wise Men brought the Baby Jesus. I get that. But I think what once was someone's good idea of honoring His birth by offering a simple token to a loved one, has been blown completely out of proportion.

When I was a kid it was all about the presents. And Santa Clause. That's what made Christmas magic for me. I could easily lie and say it wasn't, but every kid knew that's what Christmas was all about, at least, that's all we cared about. Sure, we'd sit through the ritual of listening to the story from St. Luke be read every Christmas Eve, the whole time thinking, "that's a nice story, when can we go to bed so Santa can come?"

The worst part is that now, as an adult, not much has changed. Only the focus from "getting" to "giving" has changed. Instead of fantasizing about what lay wrapped under the tree for me, I am constantly running through a list in my mind of what I have bought, what still needs to be bought, what I need to wrap, who I am forgetting, etc. etc. etc. Even as I attend church functions focused on the true meaning of Christmas, and am pulled momentarily from the hustle and bustle and reminded why we are doing all this, I walk out the door thinking, "Okay, what's next on the list? What do I have do be doing?"

I think about what this holiday should be. It should mirror that first Christmas, in that lowly stable. The miracle that took place, the love that was felt despite the absence of pretty things. There was no man dressed in red and white who came and left packages tied in bows. There was no caroling, or treats, or ornament exchanges. There were no brightly lit trees, old musicals to watch, or even snow to go sledding in. And yet, despite our best efforts to make each Christmas bigger and better than the one before, we have yet to compete with the original one.

I think we have it all wrong. What are we teaching our kids about Christmas? Sure, it's the Season of Giving. That's all well and good, but that's not why we have Christmas. I want my kids to associate Christmas with Christ, not presents, or Santa. I want to be able to sit back and relax and remember why we celebrate this man. I want to sit down with my family each night and tell a different story of His life and talk about how we can emulate Him more. As it is now, I can barely squeeze in a thought about this as I'm wrapping and baking and shopping and decorating.

This poem sums up exactly how I feel:

The Stranger

At Christmas time there was a man
who looked so out of place,
as people who rushed about him
at a hurried sort of pace.

He stared at all the Christmas lights,
the tinsel everywhere,
The shopping center, Santa Claus,
with children gathered near.

The Mall was packed with shoppers
who were going to and fro,
Some with smiles and some with frowns
and some too tired to go.

They rested on the benches
or they hurried on their way,
to fight the crowd for purchases
to carry home that day.

The music from a stereo
was playing loud and clear
of Santa Claus, and snow men,
and a funny-nosed reindeer.

He heard the people talk about
the good times on the way,
Of parties, fun, and food galore,
and gifts exchanged that day.

"I'd like to know what's going on,"
the man was heard to say,
"There seems to be some sort of
celebration on the way.

"And would you tell me who this is,
all dressed in red and white?
And why are children asking him
about a special night"?

The answer came in disbelief,
"I can't believe my ear!
I can't believe you do not know
that Christmas time is here,

The time when Santa comes around
with gifts for girls and boys,
When they're asleep on Christmas,
he leaves them books and toys".

"The man you see in red and white
is Santa Claus, so sly,
The children love his joyful laugh
and twinkle in his eye.

"His gift-packed sleigh is pulled
along by very small reindeer,
As he flies quickly through the air,
while darting here and there.

"The children learn of Santa
while they are still quite small.
When Christmas comes, he is the most
important one of all."

The stranger hung his head in shame,
he closed a nail-pierced hand.
His body shook in disbelief;
he did not understand.

A shadow crossed his stricken face,
his voice was low but clear,
"After all these years, they still don't know."
And Jesus shed a tear.

- Author Unknown -


linda said...

It is funny that you wrote this just now. I was just talking to David about the same thing. It is really sad how "Christ" has been taken out of Christmas. Most the songs playing have nothing to do with Him. David just bought a CD that all the songs talk about is that Christ is the center of Christmas. And I LOVE it.
Every year I get all the cousins together to do a skit of the nativity, and then David turns it into a video that we watch on Christmas Eve. (We found that the kids pay attention to a movie that "they" are in better than grandpa reading from the scriptures.) But I still don't think they get it. Kaden knows that we are celebrating Christ's birth, but it is more important to him to go to the store to get everyone things. (I have been blessed with a bunch of kids who care more about what they give others rather than what they get!!!)
Sadly I think it is only going to get worse. Now that everyone says Happy Holiday's rather than Merry Christmas.
Well, to you-I say "Merry CHRISTmas!!!!!

marisa said...

Amen! Let's make a stand and really make this time of year about Him and not those dang mall/walmart trips. I too feel this same way every year. We are having a super small Christmas, spending time with family, reading from the Bible,and going to church tomorrow night. I always make sure I remind my kids about the TRUE meaning of Christmas. I am so glad you feel the same way! Merry CHRISTmas Alicia.

Melissa Mae Johnson said...

AMEN! I have been feeling the same exact way. I'm grateful Mae is still so young, so I can start teaching her NOW what Christmas is all about.

Amy said...

I couldn't agree more. I've been feeling the exact same way. Thanks for sharing the poem.

Lauren said...

First off, Merry Christmas, dear Alicia.

Next, the poem was beautiful. It truly puts everything into perspective. I feel ashamed that tomorrow is Christmas, and I haven't done a Christ-centered activity yet. I hate that I have been "too busy"...what a dumb excuse :(

meohmyers said...

Great reminder. Great poem and perspective. I agree wholeheartedly that we need to re-focus on the simplicity of Christmas and not get caught up in the over the top gift giving.

We tried down-scaling our purchases this year... we'll see how it goes! We haven't put any of the presents under the tree yet because we're trying to remind them it's not all about the presents. It's driving my kids crazy! I love it!

Shayla said...

Isn't this so hard?! I love giving gifts to the kids and seeing their excitement over that part of Christmas, but I always feel we haven't done enough for the "real" reason. It's my own fault, though. I have such a hard time slowing down and just enjoying things and using those little moments as times to teach the kids the important things. Maybe next year I'll do better...? :-)