From Craig Swanson…
The older I get, the more I dislike the Christmas season. My family refers to me as Scrooge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the fact that the Son of God came to earth as a man to save us from our sins. But let’s be honest, that’s not what this season is about anymore. The world has totally hijacked and secularized Christmas.
I grew up in the last century when Christmas time was a little less hectic. But even in the 1960’s the world was creeping in. The focus was becoming Santa Claus and gifts. They captured the kid’s imaginations with Rudolf and Frosty. They sold a feeling with music and lights and decorations – and it worked. Think of what the songs, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, “Walking in a winter wonderland”, and “Let it snow”, do to you. They stir up feelings of nostalgia and coziness. But none of this has anything to do with the coming of Christ.
Fast forward to today and the Christmas season is nothing more than a well-oiled marketing scheme. It encourages people to spend money they don’t have on gifts that people don’t need. Black Friday has now crept into Thanksgiving so that we can thank God for what we have and then an hour later go out and covet what we don’t have. People are getting into serious fights in the stores over stuff. Craziness – bah, humbug.
As an adult I’ve always struggled with how to keep Christmas holy in a secularized Christmas world. Along with this come feelings of guilt for not doing a better job of it. But do I need to feel guilt when observing Christmas every year is not a Biblical mandate? Frustrating – bah, humbug. I think my disdain for Christmas was pushed over the edge on one particular Christmas morning. There was an enormous stack of wrapped gifts that filled the corner of the room. And I admit I was looking forward to seeing what my wife bought the grandkids and seeing the joy on their faces as they got their new stuff. Then I watched in dismay as they tore into their gifts and tossed them aside in hope of another one. In fifteen minutes the room of lovely stacked gifts was a mass of wadded up paper with every square foot of the floor cover with gifts and boxes. You know how this turns out – the kids usually end up having more fun playing in the boxes than with their new toys. Stop the madness!
I think something snapped in me that day. There was the realization that we, along with the rest of the church, had bought into the world system. Think about what we do – we spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on gifts for each other – and it’s Jesus’ birthday. I know I’m going to sound like a radical nut-job here, but I’m just trying to reason with you. The only way we as a church can reasonably put meaning back into Christmas is step away from this notion that Christmas is about giving gifts to everyone. We bought the lie – we bought the feeling. Let’s admit that and correct it.
I realize that this is almost like repenting. I’m asking us to turn aside from the world’s way and honor Christ. Wouldn’t it be nice if our gathering together for Christmas was a little more like Thanksgiving Day -simple – where the focus is on God and what He provided? I’m convinced that the only way to make this happen is to put aside the world’s tradition of gift giving and receiving and focus on the coming of Christ in gratitude and humility. Otherwise, let’s just put pretense aside and stop calling it Christmas and just celebrate Santa Day with the rest of the world. We really need to have some serious conversations in our families about wrestling Christmas out of the hands of the world. Merry “Christ has come” day!