my christmas rant
I usually spend this time of year feeling a mixture of joyful and angsty: joyful for all that christmas means and all the things that I love about it (see last year's Emmanuel post), and angsty at what Christmas has become. A time of getting stressed over traditions and other people's expectations: ie, a time for "family and giving".
I was walking down Lambton Quay the other day, feeling slightly stressed about the huge crowds shopping and anxious about getting things for my family that will a) reflect somehow how much they mean to me, and b) not be a lot more or less impressive than what I am going to receive from them...phew. Enter angsty thoughts: Since when was giving others gifts such a stressful thing? Why should I buy gifts for others because I feel like I should? Is that really giving for the right reasons?....or am I just questioning this because I don't subscribe to the "true spirit of giving" that Farmers and Kirkaldies has told us we have to feel...
Those three wise men have a LOT to answer for.
Okay, so commercialism at Christmas makes me angsty. So does the family politics. While one of the things that I love about Christmas is that it is a time that most people are more open to talking about Jesus and what significance he may have in the rest of their lives; one of the things that makes me the most angsty is the negative media attention..."Santa is more popular than Jesus...Churches are losing customers!" "Historians reveal that the virgin birth was all a lie - this means that the Bible and thus all of Christianity is wrong!!" "Christmas should be more inclusive...why so much focus on Jesus?! Let's celebrate .... as well!"
Some of it gets to my head. It makes me defensive about my faith and about my right to rejoice in the birth of Jesus and all that it means to me. I can't not accept the way that Christmas is now perhaps more generally accepted as a time of love/giving/family - these are all good things!! But I want to jump up and down and tell the world that they have a loving Father who has made the ultimate sacrifice just to break down the barrier between us and him! That as Christians we are not so much celebrating a miraculous birth, but the coming of our Lord and King who will save our lives if we let him!
How can I resolve my angst? I guess I need to think really hard about what Christmas actually does mean to me, about what I am celebrating and how I can use this holiday as a means of sharing the Gospel message.
Start with the truths:
- We are celebrating Jesus' birthday here! How do we like to have our own birthdays celebrated? How would Jesus want us to celebrate him?
Well on my birthday I love being the centre of attention :P
...maybe the most simple thing that I can do this Christmas is to keep Jesus at the centre. I mean really at the centre: I can love my family and relatives with the love that I know God has for me, I can thank God every time I get to give someone a gift, I can see God in the faces of other people as they take delight in things, I can use the conversations as an opportunity to really listen to people, rather than just making small talk as I usually do.
- I love my family and I want them to come to know Christ. But it is not usually a good idea to spew all my 'religion' talk all over them :) I need to find a balance between 'celebrating my way' and 'celebrating their way', between being ready to share and ready to listen. It is important for me to participate in traditions and enjoy Christmas with them as they experience it. To not roll my eyes at things that I deem silly or unnecessary - more experience them through a God perspective. Maybe my joy will be contagious...
- God is big! God is good! No matter what happens on Christmas day he is still here, in the middle of the conversations, the cooking, the gifting, the fighting, the awkward bits, the uncomfortable party shoes... God has come! Here! 2000ish years ago he came here as a tiny baby, fully human. He experienced life as we do, he was cold and hot and hungry and sad and happy, he went through hard times just as we do. And he chose to be sacrificed on the cross, to pay the penalty for our sin so that we can live - all of this he chose to do. He didn't have to, but he did. Man, he must love us!
Yea, Christmas is about love. Love, and life.
I think I am going to spend my Christmas Day saying "thank you".
ps. if you are keen to celebrate with me on christmas eve, come to All Saints Church in Hataitai at 8pm - if you need more persuading, see huggies' blog