Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

31
Dec
10

Magic on Ice

As the year comes to a close, so does our holiday season. This year, the season settled in with disillusion. I resented the materialism and mourned the childhoods of my daughters, all the while seeking a spiritual connection that went missing some time in September. It was difficult to stave off cynicism, particularly after a Black-Friday all-nighter that left me feeling used and exploited like a night at a frat house caveman party.

Then I took Berlin ice skating.

Ice skating is like mainlining childhood for me. Growing up in Minnesota, I spent many weekends on the lake. If it got dark, my dad would turn on the Nova’s headlights and I would circle the lake, getting more and more bruised as I pursued a doomed Olympic career. The minute my feet are captivated by little white boots with metallic blades, I am eight again, and everything is possible.

So mother and daughter circled the ice, together in childish spirit, chatting about the latest pop stars and admiring our icy grace as we twirled around dodged wobbly grown ups and slow beginners. Most of these obstacles belonged to the same group. When we got cold, we left the ice to sit by the fire and we stopped talking long enough to notice these people. It was a family, reunited from lives that took them all over the country. Grandpa and grandma were there with thermoses of hot chocolate for the brothers and sisters they had borne. The cousins were scattered around the ice and the fire pit, according to age, and they chatted feverishly, distracted only by the effort of gliding around the ice. Remember that? The anticipation, the travel, the arrival, the hiding away with those so dear and precious for their absence?

Magic. I nearly fell off my skates. The season IS magical, there is no denying it. It is the only time we step back from living to make love a deliberate part of our routine. We have parties and gather, but even as we are alone in our daily routines, we think of others. We think of their needs rather than their demands…What to gift, whom to gift, charity, life changes as we catch up through Christmas letters and admire growing families. This season, despite the guerrilla tactics of retailers, exemplifies humanity at its best. I believe that love is our greatest emotion wrought with a power we cannot understand. The media has undermined love with manipulation and lust, but deep, platonic love is the closest we can come to a God who is Love. Perhaps the retailers are stealing Christmas from the Christians as we stole it from the Pagans, but there is a reason it is so sought after. It exemplifies the best of us and that is a perfect reason to hold on to it. There is a movement among Christians to give up the materialism and commercialism of the holiday and while I agree that these things are distracting, I think that the cost of letting them go is too great. Our material prowess is the result of a human spirit set free, and we ave a right to embrace it. If we do not, it becomes a controlling force and embraces us. We are commissioned to act as the Lord’s Hands and Feet, serving humanity. This means many things, but giving is a large part of it, the easy part. The rest comes in time as we learn to express love untarnished by a fallen mankind. We need to practice. We need this season. We need this magic that is really a miracle.

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20
Dec
09

Midnight Clear

I think the point was lost in all my thoughts yesterday. The point is, the gifts of Christmas are grace, unconditional love, hope, and forgiveness. Unfortunately, these gifts are not ours to give. We have instead found what we can give, thus depending on retailers for Christmas joy. In our best intentions, we substituted material giving for the true blessings bestowed by a relationship with Jesus. Being steeped in the uncertainty of recession, coupled with having everything under the sun, has forced us to look deeper for meaning this year. I think it started last year, but everyone was reeling as the markets crashed around us and banks closed at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. This year, we’ve had an opportunity to adjust and regroup.

Now I have found some clarity in this season. As we boycott retailers that refuse to say “Merry Christmas” and argue amongst ourselves over the origin of tradition, we leave behind the truest Christmas gifts. There is no grace in a retail boycott. Unconditional love? We have taught our children that they are only worthy of gifts if they behave. Redemption has disappeared in the holiday shuffle as we strive for perfection in an effort to impress.

The Christmas season offers us so many opportunities, more than any other, to show the world the love of Christ. We, though, are guilty of being caught up in worldly trappings, pointing fingers and bickering over verbiage while around the world, people still starve and suffer oppression. Not having our holiday recognized by the government is not oppression, slavery and unfair caste systems are oppression, this is where we should bare our teeth. Giving gifts is lovely. It is a wonderful expression of love, but as I said yesterday, we must check our motivation. The shopping part of Christmas is far removed from the birth of Jesus part of Christmas. Shopping is not ordained in the Bible as part of any celebration. Yet we have tried to turn the shopping part of Christmas into the holiday itself.

Our fight for Christmas is a dangerous and slippery slope. The struggle over a nativity scene on the courthouse steps can easily keep the world from seeing that very child who lay in the manger, even if the struggle is “won.”

20
Dec
09

What Happened to that Silent Night?

We are living in unprecedented times. In the last year, I think we have all seen our priorities change. When priorities begin to change, we are forced to re-think. We cannot change our motives without taking a serious look deep into our lives. Now, even as we find ourselves standing among the ruins of our lives, time moves on. Ready or not, Christmas is here.

This year, I had no hope for the season. Nothing is as it should be and I’m still reeling from the last year’s mini-breakdown in the Barbie aisle at Target – the sad moment when I realized BOTH my daughters had outgrown not just Barbie, but pretty much any toy that doesn’t recharge. There was curiosity in my despondence, though, as I anticipated something miraculous. My lottery tickets did not pan out. BUT, as I shuttled two breathless girls from party to party, I had the opportunity to watch them, so grown and beautiful, as they foster these relationships and fill their lives with beloved friends. They are making their own Christmas magic and it has a lot less to do with me than it used to. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with toys and presents and everything to do with the people they care about.

While I miss Barbie and baby dolls, I am happy to usher in a much less materialistic phase. Christmas is complicated. Spending is monitored. We worry about leaving people out and hurt feelings. We worry about gifts without reciprocation. We worry about overspending. I was listening to a discussion about this on the radio and I wondered why churches don’t help us out with the gift giving dilemmas. Pastors make efforts to be relevant, but gift-giving among feuding families goes untouched year after year.

Oh wait – that’s easy. CHRISTMAS GIFT GIVING IS NOT BIBLICAL!!!! This was a dangerous thought. It made me reconsider our Christmas traditions and the very tradition we call Christmas. First, I love Christmas. I love to celebrate the birth of Divinity on Earth. I love to give gifts, and I love the traditions. It is worth considering, though, what we lose in this holiday melange. Worrying about which neighbors to gift and if the office gossip should be invited to our Christmas cocktail party completely saps the meaning from the season. It is ironic that selfless giving is the gist of the season, yet it is also the great distraction. I submit that the distraction comes from motive. As we worry through this season, we are truly worrying about reputation and there is nothing Biblical about that.

In fact, Christmas could be the time of year Christians behave the worst. We fight for Christmas then brag about what we’ve done. I myself have written letters to retailers begging them to keep “Christmas” in place of “holidays.” But Christmas 2009 finds me in a different place. Now I fear that Christians aren’t fighting for Christmas, they are using it as a weapon to fight with. The Roman Catholics “declared” Christmas in the first place to distract from pagan celebrations. Now we expect the masses to use the word “Christmas” in marketing, greeting, and relating. It doesn’t make sense to expect a person who is not celebrating the actual birth of Christ to acknowledge it. In fact, it lessens the impact. When we do this, it makes me wonder if even we Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ, or our personal triumph at being in a majority that has some political clout.

This year, I am celebrating the birth of Christ, a miracle too great to be turned over to retailers and caterers. I am not interested in leveraging my beliefs into retail dollars. I am even less interested in asking someone who does not hold this season dear to go through the empty verbal exchange just to salve my sensitivities. I am thrilled to celebrate the Santa season with everyone who cares to partake, but the Christmas part is much more personal. This day, this entire season, actually, is sacred to me and I want to celebrate Christmas with Christians who want to rejoice with me. This celebration could never be measured on a Black Friday balance sheet.

01
Dec
08

Stolen Magic

img_1741Black Friday is over.  Retailers are steeling themselves for the financial fallout as their lowered expectations are met.  So is my family.  Last Christmas, as happened every Christmas before, we left Grandma’s house wedged into the car among enough new belongings to start a second household.  It was bittersweet.  On one hand, the girls couldn’t wait to get home and unpack their treasures.  On the other hand, we all knew how hard it was to find the right gifts for children, friends, and grandparents because we have everything under the sun and we know that so many don’t.  My husband and I knew then, when our then-six-year-old unwrapped her second MP3 player, that a line had been crossed and it may be difficult to even find the other side, much less get to it. 

So we determined to cut back.  So did my grandparents.  So did my parents.  So did my blessed princesses, but it was not voluntary.

Amid my resolve to teach my children the true joy of this season, I am shocked that I have been knocked over by eight tiny reindeer.  For the first time in years, I did not get a JC Penny snowglobe, the prize of a true Black Friday veteran.  Even if I wasn’t getting anyone a sweater, I still stood in line just to prove that I was a soldier prepared to brave the crowds at 5:00 am even after downing half a bottle of wine and the leftovers of a meal that never ended.  From Penny’s, I would hit Circuit City.  Then Wal-Mart for the essentials.  Then Target.  Then Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond.  Then Pier One, TJ Maxx, and finally the mall to visit Macy’s and the Hallmark Store.  Of course, I would visit Bath & Body Works, then Claire’s for stocking stuffers.  Sixteen hours later, I would be jubilant and nearly done shopping, except for the few items I had to wait out until last minute clearances. 

This year, I worked on Black Friday.  Then, I came home to play a rolicking game of Monopoly with my daughters, a rare treat to play such a long game.  Saturday we went out together to round up any remaining bargains, then came home for family movie night.  I enjoyed every minute, but it was another bittersweet moment.  Every turn of the aisle in Target unearthed a little more holiday melancholy.  First, I miss my snowglobe.  There will be an empty “2008” spot on my console table.  But of course, there is so much more.  

I have fallen for a tremendous, damaging, and tragic lie.  All this time, I have searched Penny’s Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Target (I nearly found it there), and all the others for magic.  I even thought I found it there and I think I convinced my daughters they can find it there, too.  Each year, I try desperately to create the magical scenes of ecstatic children opening beautifully wrapped treasures beside a perfectly lit tree.  The tree was always perfect, thanks to my mother, but that was it.  The harder I tried, the bigger the failure.  I have books and books of holiday stories that I planned to read to these girls by the light of the Christmas tree.  It never happened.  Most of the bindings haven’t been cracked.  My older daughter is 14 and we have uncracked bindings.  I have a 14 year old daughter who has never baked Christmas cookies.  I am not sure she actually knows that a cookie cutter is to make cookies, not to embelish packages for her teachers.  My friends and family have never gotten a Christmas card from me.  No family pictures.  I am never home before dark on a weekend during the holidays – unless there is a party later.  However, as much as I love a Christmas party, I have never filled my own home with Christmas guests – no time.  The retailers have gotten all of my holiday time.  I am guessing that they did not miss my Christmas cards.  My great great aunt who always asks after me and my children probably does, though.

Somehow the very retailers who promise all the magic and joy our credit cards can buy stole that from me.  I have had my suspicions, but since my escape from Black Friday, I know it’s true.  It hit home walking the Target aisles.  Even with my daughters in tow, we skipped the doll aisle, the Barbie aisle, and all of the toys.  The only thing they are interested in are grown-up electronics and CD’s.  I envied the women clustered around the new dollhouses and mourned for a time that has long gone.  My greatest hope is that they take the time to ENJOY this magic, rather than BUYING it.  

My girls have the big dollhouse, the American Girls, and every My Little Pony made, but there was no delighted squealing when they opened them.  They are not spoiled rotten – yet – I think we have caught it in time.  But I promised them magical Christmases.  According to everything they see, that meant that they would be getting these things and it ruined the surprise.  This year, they WILL be surprised with stories of a miracle that means eternal life with a very best friend.  They will be surprised to learn that cookies can come from an oven instead of boxes.  And they just may think it’s fun to show their relatives they are growing up by sending out Christmas cards and pictures.  We will have a housefull of friends for a Christmas dinner and I am sure the girls will be surprised that we have time to sip hot chocolate by the lights of the tree.   If I get my Christmas wish, my girls will discover that the magic of the holiday comes not from any big box retailer; it comes from the family the Lord gave us and the love He shares through His son.  Sorry Target – we already have MP3 players.




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