Friday, December 05, 2008

The Meaning of Christmas?

OK…we can now rest for a month until parliament reconvenes. So, I am changing the topic:

Every year as we approach this season we call Christmas, I ask a simple question... “What for? What is all this for?” I do not want to sound like a scrooge....maybe I do.....wait, I guess I must only be happy if I am spending money on something that no one really needs or wants!
What for? I guess this is what Christmas is all about!

Watch the video, and would love to hear your thoughts.


TJ said...

Love that video. Ouch it hurts.

It's so hard to break away from "tradition". There can be the expectation to spend a certain $$ amount and if the $$ amount isn't spent then the relationship can suffer. "You don't love me or see me as valuable" is the message received.

I would love to spend less $$ and more time. One issue for me is spending time with people that live across the country or even the world that I exchange gifts with?

This year my aunt was nervous to tell us that she wouldn't be mailing us gifts, but would be helping a family in need. I was so incredibly blessed by that.

If I were to be honest though. . . if the big 'givers' in my life were to all of a sudden change the tradition I might be upset. Selfish? Yah. I'm just being honest. Communicating well in advance when attempting to change or modify a tradition shows respect and love and that's what I would shoot for.

Maybe I need to start wtih baby steps. . .

Kevin B said...

I agree 100%.....i've been saying this for the past 2 year since i've come to realize that most of the gifts we receive are not needed but wanted. If there's something in my life I NEED I go and buy it.

In the past couple of years, i've been wanting to give more and more and receive less...not sure why but honestly that's how I feel. I just need to be able to convince those around me.

Too many children in our city.....YES in our city will wake up on Christmas with NOTHING....what are we, those with lots of wants and very few needs going to do about it?

I guess that's up to each one of us independently!!!!!!!!!!

CR said...

SoulPastor, you have put into words what I have felt for years. The video is echoing I think, what so many of us feel inside. But if we're all feeling that way(taking liberties here), why can't we implement a change in Christmas traditions? Are we afraid to inflict feeling of hurt?

My teenagers scour the internet and flyers for ideas of "things they WANT" for Christmas, and 98% of those items, they do not NEED.
I must say, we have cut back on needless giving - even btwn spouse & I, and we do give to charity at this time of year, and sometimes in the name of a grandparent(s) b/c they certainly don't need anything. But I am still overwhelmed by the pressure of spending $100's on all these kids in our family.

Every season I start out feeling like Scrooge, and then bury the feeling deep inside and plunge ahead into the line-ups at the store.

I must tell you, that as I am responding to this, I am digging into my heart and mind to find a way to bring a change even yet this year. It is plaguing my soul....can I help my kids to understand this?
TJ's aunt in previous post who is helping a family in need....that stirs me - we as a family can do that...
I just might risk hurting some feelings this Christmas.

Jordan said...

As much as Christmas seems like a giving holiday, have we not made it an incredibly self centred one? Sure we give, but the expectation is to get something more in return, is it not? Sure we could trace back the Christmas roots to the birth of Christ and how its all about giving, but in a consumeristic culture the Sunday school version of Christmas almost seems irrelvant. Should we approach the Christmas story from a different angle to attempt to reach our culture?

She... said...

I understand the frustration with Christmas. There can be a lot of financial pressures, family tension etc. A lot of people seem to get angry because the 'meaning of Christmas is lost.'

In my mind, the meaning behind December 25, all of the gifts, the family, the special readings of the Christmas Carol... none of it is specifically Christian.

To be able to reconcile the difference between The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the birth of Christ, I ended up thinking of the different facets of Christmas into two sort of separate celebrations.

I decide how much I can financially afford to celebrate the gift-buying/party-going Christmas and I do it, and enjoy every last minute of it!

I also make time to make it a Christian event for myself and anyone who wishes to participate with me.

The video in the blog-post is *awesome.* Although I do have a small problem with it. It suggests that Christmas is the time to do all of the wonderful things it shows. Isn't the whole year the time to spend time relationally and give 'presence?' There is nothing more Christian holiday-specific in their suggestions than there is in getting together with friends and exchanging gifts.

So... what I'm saying is... find what you enjoy out of the season, enjoy it. Find some way to make it meaningful to your Christian walk, and also enjoy that.

There are so many things to be justifiably angry about. I'm not sure that frustration about whether there are enough $$ to buy Christmas gifts and trying unsuccessfully to change society's desire for gifts is all that justifiable. (or effective. :))

All year long, practise the love that we're commanded to practise.

At Christmas-time, read 'the story.' Contemplate how to celebrate what that huge story means to your life.

And enjoy it. :)

Misty B said...

We live in a materialistic culture and Christmas is the height of that. I can't dispute the facts. I can just say that these discussions that come up every year drive me crazy!

You watch the news and you see clergy complaining about how the secular world has taken Christ out of Christmas. You go to church and listen to sermons about how we are focusing on the wrong things etc. You search the internet for Christian conversations about Christmas and what do you find? Complaints.

People who are seeking are looking for hope. We have their attention and all they get is a lecture about what Christmas is NOT about. How about using the attention to talk about what Christmas IS about?

SoulPastor said...


These discussions may drive you crazy but it is seriously worth looking at. If the clergy is to do "christmas" then let's get the timeline right (October?), the biblical picture right...(Jesus was about 2 when the wisemen showed up...and he wasn't in the manger at that time)...

I am of the mind to let Christmas be strickly a secular holiday and our focus be Easter. The only issue for me is that there is still credence for us celebrating the virgin birth (What Christmas is to be about), the Son of GOD being made flesh.

Now...I must go to the mall...

Lora said...

I change my mind a lot over the holidays over whether I enjoy them or not. I love spending time with family... even when it comes to the shopping. At the same time, since gaining a lot of debt with being a student, I find myself perturbed by the whole "what I WANT for Christmas thing".

I am part of a blended family and so with 5 kids, at say $25-$35 each, that's $500ish combined that we could be doing something much better with. So, Brandi (my older "sister") and I decided to talk with our siblings about not getting each other gifts and instead using the money to put a hamper together for a single mom and her son. All 5 of us agreed. Each of us is putting in the same amount of money and we are giving to a needy family in our community. My dad and step mom also agreed to put some money into the hamper.

This is just one way that is easy to turn Christmas from an annoyance to a joy. And it's SO easy to do!! I get a happy feeling inside every time I think about the looks on the mother and her son's faces when they get the hamper!

I want to challenge not only those people from large families, but those from small families too, to put the money you would spend on each other and put a hamper together for a family in you community who REALLY needs. I'm sure SoulPastor has a long list of families that are in dire need of food and other necessities this season, so there is no reason for you not to try it!!

novice said...

Great video and some very interesting discussion.

It does kind of leave me with a question, though. Is it ok to ask a question in the comments?

For those who enjoy Christmas (and I mean actually enjoy it, not just want to enjoy it or believe it should be enjoyed) - what is it you enjoy? What makes this time of year special for you?

I'm not trying to start an argument or anything, just that I have trouble enjoying Christmas I am genuinely curious and would love to know what draws people in at this time of year.

karen said...

Soulpastor, I was surprised to read you say that you are "of the mind to let Christmas be strictly a secular holiday". I am glad to know that I am not the only Christian in that boat. Every year it has been harder for me to celebrate our Christian Christmas. I know Christ was not born on Dec 25 but that the date was chosen in the 4th century to effectively transform the Pagan occasion of Saturnalia into a Christian holiday. I have thought a lot about why I should or should not celebrate this day. On one hand, it is a holiday loaded with pagan symbols and tradition. On the other hand, it is beautiful to remember the birth of Christ even if it is the wrong date. Much of how we celebrate events has pagan roots but this does not necessarily mean we should condemn the practices. However, even though I can celebrate Christmas (gift giving, putting up a Christmas tree, the big dinner etc) with a clean heart; meaning that I am not worshipping another deity, I am bothered by the fact that no reference to annually celebrating Christ’s birth is ever mentioned in our scriptures. My question is not if we should celebrate the birth of Christ but if we have been mislead to believe we can fit it all in one day each year. I don’t believe the real meaning of Christmas is about Christ. The practice does not extend back to the days of the apostles. Right or wrong it was the churches/mans attempt to change the meaning of a pagan holiday into something acceptable. So it bugs me when I hear the Christian radio stations say we should put Christ back into Christmas. The three wise men at the manger scene also bug me but I digress….. So what have I done with the holiday? I put up my pagan tree and decorate it; I get my Christmas baking done and do all my shopping. I left the manger scene in its box this year and determine to live each day thankful for the gift of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. Now I am free to enjoy the holiday.

She... said...

Here are the things I enjoy about this time of year:
- Winter is just beginning, so the blanket of white makes everything seem so *clean.* And if the temperatures are just right, the snow sparkles!
- If I manage to get the timer on the Christmas tree just right, sparkley lights greet me in the morning, and I hear the quiet click of them turning off just as I'm drifting off to sleep.
- My whole family is together for the only time in the year. My big bro's and I will gather around a piano and "sing" through a Queen songbook. (Sing=yell. And odd that a Queen tour song-book is Christmassy to us, eh?)
- My 93+ grandma will tell us stories that are more interesting than one can imagine! (She's hosting a taffy-pull this year with some cousins I only see every 5-10 yrs! Even at 40, I'm *way* looking forward to this!)
- I find myself wanting to do something a little bit special for people. (Sometimes it costs $2, sometimes it costs $0.)

Sure, there are lots of things that are frustrating this time of year. But if you go by the "focus on what you like" plan (Philipians 4:8), you'll find that you like life - in its entirety - a whole lot more.

Is that what you were curious about, Novice?

Misty B said...

This is sort of in response to Novice’s question but also to the comments to this post in general.

To say I enjoy Christmas would be a huge stretch. I have found it difficult to enjoy Christmas since my Mom passed away near Christmas several years ago. Christmas was my Mom’s favourite time of the year. She saved to buy presents. She started shopping in July. She did her best to make it really special even though we didn’t have a lot of money.

Christmas also tends to be a lonely time for me. The regular commitments wind down, people gather with their families. I don’t have much connection to my family. It is a brutal reminder of what I don’t have.

BUT I fight for Christmas because it is the time I need the incarnation of Christ. And I always seem to find Him even though I wonder every year if I will. I refuse to give up on having Christ in Christmas because I need him to be there. And when I find Him, even in the ‘bleak midwinter’ that is reason to celebrate.

Please don’t give up on Christmas.

novice said...

Thanks She and Misty for your responses.

I don't have any philosophical objections to Christmas. Just that everything gets harder around Christmas. Family, work, church... everyone has such high expectations that I just can't enjoy it.

I know I could pick out dozens of things I like about Christmas and it's enough to get through - but honestly I can't wait till it's over. Kind of like sitting through another Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy just to impress a date... :)

She... said...

If it helps to know... some girls dig it when you realize they don't like Tom Hanks / Meg Ryan romantic comedies, and take them instead to see something with a bit more substance to it. (For instance, Valkyrie looks *awesome.*)