There, I said it.
Now that that's out of the way, let me explain: at no other time during the year are people so consumed with materialism, so ill-content, and so intense about making sure everything is perfect. I would contend that at no other time during the year are people so far away from the way of living Jesus talked about (namely in loving God and people). The Christmas season, at least as it is practiced in the U.S., is radically unchristian, especially when compared to other holidays in the American social calendar.
Christmas has so much potential. People do seem to be more jolly at times during the Christmas season; it's just that our practice is so lame. I don't want my kids to grow up with a yearly practice of greed, materialism, and discontent. So this year, we're reworking how our family is practicing Christmas. I'd like Christmas to not undo what we're teaching our boys about following Jesus. I'd like to rebuild our Christmas. If we'd like to actually have a Christmas season that reflects, I don't know, the values and teachings of Jesus, we need to do a bit of borrowing from a few other holidays:
Thanksgiving is the best American holiday for practicing contentment. There is no other holiday where, if all goes well, the agenda consists of 1) eating a great meal and 2) being together. There is no worry about the future, no thought of work troubles or gifts. All there is to do is think about how lucky we are to be alive, to have the people in our lives that we do, and to be thankful. Many people actually say what they're thankful for out loud; others simply reflect internally; everyone I've talked to practices being grateful and content. If we're to redeem Christmas, we could handle a gallon of contentment with what we have and seconds and thirds of thankfulness.
How to Contentify Christmas: Throw out the Christmas tree concept and replace it with a Thankful-For tree. Decorate the tree with items or pictures of things and people we're thankful for.
Christmas Needs to Give Like Halloween
Halloween is my favorite holiday in that it most reflects the generosity teachings of Jesus. Think about it: neighbors freely give gifts of candy or various other goodies to perfect strangers, expecting nothing in return. My kids got equally excited about giving out candy to the kids that came to the door as they did about receiving candy, and for me that's a really big deal. It would be amazing if, at Christmas, my kids were as excited about giving away gifts as they were about receiving them. If we're going line up Christmas with the life and teachings of Jesus, we need to refocus it from getting everything we want to giving away things. Haven't we yet learned that it's better to give that to receive?
How to Givificate Christmas: Instead of loading up the tree with coveted toys, put gifts to give away under the Thankful-For tree. Put some thought into it. Give generously and without shame.
Christmas Needs to Hope Like New Year's Day
I'm definitely not one to make a New Year's resolution, namely because if I'm going to make a life change, I don't need a calendar date to tell me now's the time. However, there is something about the New Year celebration that gives a sense of hope, of new beginning. People really feel like they can change their lives. We can take the good stuff from the last year and leave behind the bad. We have a fresh start; even the calendar says so. I can't help but think about forgiveness on New Year's, about how mistakes of the past can be overcome, about how former enemies can now become friends. There is endless hope in starting over. Can we start over a bit more during the Christmas season?
How to Hope-infuse Christmas: You remember those gifts to give away under the Thankful-For tree? How about picking some enemies to give to? How about apologizing for your wrongdoings toward them, telling them you're starting over, and inviting them to do the same? Have you ever unenemied someone? It's life-changing.
Christmas Needs to Obsess on Love Like Valentines Day
Nothing so captures the teachings of Jesus like loving God and people. And while good ol' V-Day is generally about romantic love, there's not much else to this holiday, except maybe some chocolates (the Hallmark cards can go, in my opinion). Valentine's Day's got something right: thinking about others and figuring out how you can express love to them.
How to Loveinticate Christmas: The easiest fix for this one is to start and not stop. I'm not sure living a life of love can ever be a seasonal thing; it's either your practice or it isn't. As followers of Jesus, if we're going to infuse the Christmas season with love, it's going to need to be our daily practice. Talk about loving God by loving neighbors and enemies. Then do it. Everyday. Not because we're so great, but because we've been shown great love. It's really easy to share when you've been given a lot.
So that's the plan. This year we're rebuilding Christmas because we want the holiday season to be something we can believe in and really get into and practice. Just this morning my younger son informed me "we are re-doing the tree to be about what we are thankful for." It wasn't a question. I didn't even know he knew we were rethinking our practice.
As I said before, Christmas in the U.S. has a lot of potential, and it's not all bad. But the way we practice it as a society has almost nothing to do with the person for which it is named. Perhaps that goes for the general practice of the faith as well. Why stop with rebuilding Christmas? Why not practice gratitude, generosity, hope, and love all year? Can you imagine the effect on Christianity?
What ideas do you have for rebuilding Christmas? How does your family practice Christmas?
Does the current practice of Christmas need to be rebuilt? Does the current practice of Christianity?
What teachings of Jesus need to be incorporated into Christmas? How can we practice those teachings during the Christmas season?
Have I lost my mind? Is the current practice of Christmas a good reflection of Jesus? How does the Christmas season help you follow the way of Jesus?