Does Our Home Celebrate the Commercial Christmas?
It is finally the week after Thanksgiving. We have been seeing Christmas decorations, hearing multiple commercials, and listening to Christmas music since early in November. In just a few years, the Commercial Christmas will begin before Halloween!!
We can’t control the bombardment of the Commercial Christmas outside our home, but perhaps our home can become a safe haven for the true meaning of Christmas.
We often hear that Christmas is about family, love, friends, peace, joy, . . . . And although these are certainly important during the Christmas season, the true meaning of Christmas is Jesus Christ himself. This includes not just his birth, his death and his resurrection, but Who He is. Any other description of the “true” meaning of Christmas dilutes this reality.
We often complain about the Commercial Christmas. We lament its focus on buying gifts, on flashing lights, on Santa Clause, Rudolf, Frosty, (and I am sure you can name many more).
How can we transform the Christmas celebrations in our homes in such a way that the focus returns to that first Christmas celebration?
Here are a few suggestions that you might want to consider:
The Original Christmas Story
Sure, we read this perhaps on Christmas Eve – or have it read to us during a Christmas Eve or Christmas Sunday service. We can even have fun asking ourselves questions about the story: How many Wise Men were there . . . really? What did the Innkeeper tell Joseph? Was it cold for those shepherds?
But how can we make this Christmas story come alive in a new way – and a way that might last for the weeks preceding December 25th?
Try checking out “The Twelve Voices of Christmas.”
This audio presentation includes twelve ten-minute soliloquies. Each segment tells the Christmas Story from a unique perspective: Gabriel, Zacharias, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, etc. Even the angels and Herod have their own side of the story to tell.
You can listen to one selection each evening and talk about what each “Voice” was saying and why. The monologues are Biblically based, but provide an opportunity to view the same events from new and different perspectives.
Don’t Ask the Kids About What They Want for Christmas
This can be a tough one. When our children are young, what we ask or tell them becomes their basis for deciding what is important to us (and thus to them). They will naturally tell us what they want, after all. But if our focus of conversation turns to what they are learning about Christmas itself, or what they can do for or give to others during this season, it will help them change their focus.
For our own children, everyone would ask them what they wanted for Christmas, and often they would have a confused look on their faces. It was a new thought about what to get (instead of what to give). And at young ages, we can help them divert their gaze back to others and the baby Jesus.
The word Advent derives from the Latin word meaning “coming.” By celebrating Advent, we can better prepare for Christmas – the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
For many non-liturgical denominations, Advent is something you have heard about, but never celebrated. The lighting of an additional candle every Sunday can become an exciting moment for young children – and an opportunity talk about the events leading up to Christmas night. (See “Twelve Voices” link above.)
Make the Decorating and Lighting of the Christmas tree an “Event”
For us, this event did NOT include setting up the Christmas tree and putting on the lights. For me, this was always an ordeal that was the necessary preparation for the “Event.”
We set aside an evening and everyone in the family (especially the kids) knew the focus would be the decorations. Christmas music playing, children selecting which ornaments they wanted to hang, remembering past Christmases: All these added to the celebration and created memories. (Special Note: My wife always claimed “veto rights” on where ornaments would be placed so that we would still get “the look” she wanted!)
Act Out the Christmas Story
We chose to do this with a very durable Nativity Scene. Each Christmas Eve, we would gather as a family (now 11 total, including sons-in-law, our granddaughter and my wife’s mother) in the living room. Our Nativity Scene included a separate Baby Jesus, so the manger was always kept empty until Christmas morning. The “favored” role that each child wanted was not Mary, not Joseph, not the wise men or the angels. It was the flash light that represented “The Star in the East” and that also illuminated the “Heavenly Host” that were observed by the shepherds as they sang “Glory to God in the Highest.”
What about Santa Claus? How does he fit in?
Spoiler Alert: For those of you who still believe in Santa Claus, please go back to the beginning of this article.
Let me tell you how my wife and I handled the jolly old man. Before we had our first child, we had talked thoroughly about how we wanted to celebrate Christmas as a couple and (later) as a family.
Our dilemma: Whatever we decided, we would need to establish these new traditions early — before our first child was old enough to remember. Our concern was that in many ways, the qualities of Santa Claus originate with Jesus: Giving of gifts, knowing all (He knows if you’ve been bad or good), loving, compassionate, joyful,. . . But what happens when they find out that we have contributed to the great hoax. If we tell our children (either directly or passively) that Santa Clause is real, and then they find out we “lied” to them, should they believe us about the real Christmas story and the life of Christ?
So we decided to walk the tightrope. We decided to play the “game of Santa Claus” and talk about it as a game. And when Christmas approached, we told our kids that part of the game was to pretend that Santa Clause was real during the Christmas season. At young ages, children often have trouble differentiating between pretend and reality, but they never accuse us of “lying” about Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, Queen Elsa (from “Frozen”) or other make-believe characters. They just enjoy the fantasy and chance to pretend.
By playing the game, it allows us to talk about the real Jesus (both the baby and the adult) as reality – different from the make-believe world of Santa.
What is interesting to us is that each of our children (now all adults) have mentioned that they did have the best of both worlds. And that they missed nothing except for the heartache of learning about the fantasy of St. Nick that is part of the Commercial Celebration.
Any other ideas?
Well there you go. A couple of suggestions for you to consider as we enter the Christmas season. Although the saying may have worn itself out: Jesus IS the Reason for the Season.