Where I am living at the moment they make a big celebration of a child’s first birthday because it’s a big deal for a baby to make it to one year old. When this milestone has been reached and the child has survived, they celebrate and in many cases that’s when they give them a name. As each year passes, they have a unique way of telling how old they are. Instead of talking about birthdays they will ask how many Christmases you have seen. Just so you know I’ve seen 39 Christmases!
As I turn the calendar over to December 2014 and begin to focus on the next Christmas I can count against my age, the thought comes to me, I wonder if the more Christmases you see the more you wonder about the view. I should ask a wise old person like my Dad. He has seen 67 Christmases! That’s a lot of tinsel, wrapping paper, handkerchiefs, screwdrivers and scorched almonds. I don’t want to sound sentimental, but I bet the view has changed over his life time of Christmases.
I apologise in advance, I really do, but I have to tell you that I find the whole palaver of western style celebrations at Christmas time really unappealing. I’m so sorry Christmas fans, I just find myself turned off Christmas more each year. In my conscious lack of enthusiasm, I lose sight of the real celebration at Christmas time, Jesus’ birth. I find it shoved to the back of the window display nativity scene and drowned out by inappropriate, cheesy seasonal songs.
This Christmas is my first celebrated in a developing country. I wonder at the impending differences comparing the two other locations I have experienced Christmases, in sunny New Zealand and in a traditional wintery England. In this country where life is literally about growing your own food and working hard to raise enough money to educate your children and hoping for a better future for them, I wonder what Christmas will look like. I suspect it won’t look the least bit like my previous experiences.
I don’t want to strip away your tinsel before the 25th, but I do want to probe into why we do Christmas the way we do. And is “because we’ve always done it this way”, a good enough reason? Maybe this year is the year to claim Christmas for your family and take it in the direction you want it to go, rather than going with the flow.
Family traditions are beautiful memory makers for children, yet if you asked me what gifts I got for Christmas in 1998, I will have absolutely no clue. If you asked me however who we had around for Christmas lunch that year, I could tell you. When my siblings had flown the coop, my folks and I began what we called a “Waifs and Strays” meal at Christmas. This usually involved inviting around friends who didn’t have family locally, or didn’t have easy relationships with their families. It was so much fun and we did this for a number of years. This was a very special way to celebrate Christmas as well as making some lasting memories.
The first Christmas we were married, I was unwell for months leading up to Christmas and wasn’t able to work at all, so we had a very lean budget. Consequently my family received gifts of homemade garden art, which equated to stones being glued together. It’s safe to say the artwork didn’t last very long, in fact, I think most probably broke before they even made it into the garden!
Christmas doesn’t need to be expensive, in fact it shouldn’t be expensive. Do you think the celebration of the birth of Jesus our Saviour should leave us in debt? The whole point of His coming was to pay our debt, not make us feel that we should rack up a huge visa bill to please our family and friends.
One year while we were living in the UK, we asked our family members to give to an Aid Agency instead of gifts to us. This actually felt like a really worthwhile Christmas present. On our behalf, Marcus’ parents bought a goat for a family in Africa which had the potential to change a families circumstances for generations.
These are a few random things done to celebrate Christmas, yet I can still recall them and they mean a lot to me. It has challenged me to think about how we can ensure Christmas for our families is indeed memory making, rather than doing what we have always done because we have always done it.
As we mark off another Christmas, may we make it more meaningful for our family this year by taking some time to make it what we want it to be by making Jesus the focus. Jesus gave us the greatest gift through his incarnation, so it’s not surprising for us to want to share practical gifts with others to celebrate what Jesus has done. The Magi began the tradition of gift giving. They gave expensive gifts but that doesn’t mean we have to. I would hazard a guess their worship meant more to Christ than the gold, frankincense, and myrrh put together.