Christmas is an interesting holiday.  Many people celebrate it as Jesus Christ’s birthday even though historians are quite sure that the Son of God was not born on December 25th.  Many people also celebrate it with decorated trees, strung lights, gift-giving and gorging thinking that all of these things are part of Christian tradition when in fact all of them pre-date Christianity and the invention of the holiday we now call Christmas.  Yes, it was invented.  The word Christmas never appears in the Bible and no where in the Scriptures are believers instructed to do any of the above mentioned merriment to celebrate God’s gift of His son.

I found this all out while in university.  I grew up in a home that had a modestly trimmed tree each year, lights put up indoors and out, a small gift exchange and lots of Bible reading and trips to church services.  I loved Christmas and thoroughly believed that all my family did was to honour our Lord and Saviour Jesus.  I looked at the evergreen tree we set up in our living room and thought of the eternal life Jesus came to give us.  If there was a star on top of the tree I thought of the star that led the wise men to worship the new king.  If an angel found its way to that topmost spot I thought of the angel that announced the good news to the shepherds.  The gifts reminded me of the Magi who gave gifts to the one they sought and the lights made me think of Jesus, the light of the world.  God saw my young heart and I can’t help but think that He was pleased with the simple worship I offered Him.

I was disappointed when I was challenged in university about the true meaning of Christmas.  Simple research led to the discovery that a lot of the Christmas celebrations that I thought were to adore the Christ- child were actually taken from paganism.  I couldn’t look at the trees and the lights, the greenery and the gifts quite the same way after that.  I decided to just do away with all that and honour Jesus in a way that was keeping with Scripture.  I would use the season to bless the poor and share the gospel.  People are amazingly open to talking bout Jesus during the Christmas season and it’s easy to find needy people to help as charities abound in December.  I married a man who felt the same way as I did and for years our house was barren of decorations and lights and wrapped gifts.  We were very happy with our decision.  While others were stressed and going into debt we were rejoicing and feeling the blessing of helping others.  We didn’t feel bound to wait for a particular day to lavish loved ones with things.  We gave to each other and our children when we wanted to and when we felt we needed to.

After my husband died, the boys and I carried on with this “no to Christmas” tradition.  Then, one year when I was on my own and homeschooling the boys in a Medieval unit, I found that I really wanted to do a simple version of the twelve days of Christmas.  I secretly bought and made 12 simple gifts for each of my sons and wrapped and dated them.  What fun for the boys!  They had no expectation of getting gifts and were delighted with the little things I had wrapped up – packages of gum, Dollar store toys, home-made coupons for an extra movie night together and a breakfast at McDonald’s.  I didn’t feel pressured to give these.  I didn’t do it because I had to.  It was a genuine delight for me to secretly plan this surprise.

Each year the holiday season has been a little different since then.  The boys never know what to expect and seem happy no matter what we do.  They look forward to time off, visits to family and eating a big meal.  They’re happy if they get gifts but they really don’t expect them.  I still believe in giving them things whenever I want to and not waiting for any particular day.

This year we decided to put up a tree again and make it pretty.  It’s mostly me that enjoys this.  I still want to make helping the poor and getting the gospel out a priority for the season.  I also want to take some time to think about the true story of Jesus coming to this earth for sinners like me.  It’s a wonderful story to reflect on any time of the year.  I guess I’ve discovered over the years that I love, love, love to decorate and I can’t help but think that God looks down on his child doing what she loves to do and smiles.  He still sees my heart and knows that I am trying to include Him in all that I am doing.  The creche is the central feature in my decorting scheme.  The lights are focused on it.  The tree is just an inexpensive embellishment that I intend to adorn with things that remind me of God’s blessings to our family in particular.  It’s also become a tangible reminder to pray.  Over the years the boys and I have known God-fearing folk who have set up a tree and those who haven’t.  Those who have embraced the more traditional ways of celebrating Christmas and those who have shunned them.  God sees their hearts too.  I think that He is far more concerned with the motivations behind what His children do than whether they string up Christmas lights or choose not to.

That brings me to this year, our first year as a blended family.  I now have a second husband and the boys now have a step-dad.  DA comes to our home with his own set of ideas formed from his upbringing.  His family always celebrated Christmas very traditionally and when I joined them last year I greatly enjoyed it.  His parents made the home merry and bright and welcomed a few who had no other place to go to join them for Christmas dinner.  They love the Lord and that shone even brighter than the lights and the tinsel.  Their aim was to make their home an inviting place where all could experience the love of God.  I like that.

I don’t want DA to feel like he is living in my home.  I want him to feel like we are living in our home.  I therefore took some of the warmth of Christmas that I saw in his family’s home and tried to carry it over to where he now lives.  He claims that he doesn’t care how we celebrate Christmas but I can tell that he likes what I’ve done.  He enjoys coming home and opening his eyes to the little changes I’ve made while he was away at work.  A few days ago he made a little change of his own.  I totally missed it and finally he couldn’t stand it anymore and directed my eyes to the mantel.  Here’s what I saw:

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The little Eeyore I had given him on top of his birthday present (he can be an Eeyore sometimes!) had made his way to sit by the wise men to adore the new born king.

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Melancholy Eeyore will stay there as a reminder that Jesus came for everyone, even those who can be pessimistic.  Yes, my home is visually more decorated for Christmas than it has been in past years but my heart hasn’t changed.  I still want to honour God.  I want His smile upon me.  I want DA and I to forge together our own version of Christmas that will really showcase what it is that we believe.  I’m sure next year will look a little differently than this year.  I’m already looking into a tradition that I had never heard of before – a Jesse tree- that has me excited.  I told DA about it and he seems on board for it too.  I am excited that like all the the Christian journey, Christmas doesn’t have to be static and predictable.  Different practices can come into play at different times for all the right reasons – to honour God.

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