I'm not nearly as crotchety as Scrooge, yet every holiday season I struggle with the meaning of Christmas and how it manifests in my holiday celebrations. Until tonight I never had a good answer for myself on combating the gross commercialization that has sucked real meaning from the season. I have become an emotional Scrooge, bah-humbugging my way to the end of the year as I make myself crazy figuring out how much money to spend on whom, and for what.
Then there's the matter of trying to raise kids who realize that Christmas should not be about getting gifts, or even giving gifts to our loved ones (stay with me). It shouldn't be about gifts at all. But again, I've been at a total loss on what should fill that void, and how to do it. And then tonight I had a revelation of sorts.
Christmas is, ultimately, about LOVE.
It is the celebration of Jesus's birth- but to what end was he born? Jesus didn't walk around handing out the first century equivalent of ipods and XBOX 360 games. He walked among us to help us, to show God's love for us... he was born so that he could give his life for our eternal salvation whether we want it or not. Therefore, his life is about God's love.
We're living in a time when the economy is going down the toilet, when so many willing to work must do without it because the jobs simply are not there; this is a time when banks and big businesses have made incredibly reckless decisions and yet received bailouts on the tax payers dollar to continue business as usual.
Meanwhile, unemployment benefits are expiring leaving millions of people in our country even more desperate to find ways to buy food for their families, and pay for basic utilities like water and electricity... for many of them, the hyper-commercialized Christmas season may be an even more depressing time because they simply cannot give even when they want to. Just day to day living is sucking up every bit of income they've got. When necessities are hard to come by, something has got to give. And I get that. I totally do. And it breaks my heart that when many get the chance to receive something- anything, for Christmas, they'll ask for things most of us take for granted- toiletries, sweatshirts, blankets, pillowcases, socks, food...
We live in a time when our legislators are clearly uninterested in helping the American people ease their burdens even just a little bit, and billions of our tax dollars are going to fund causes overseas. In light of this the meaning of Christmas (to me) became undeniably clear.
We can only help ourselves so much, our government will help us hardly at all. But we are not hopeless. No one is hopeless. Because despite these uncomfortable facts, it is more important then ever that we come together and help each other. Jesus came to show God's love for us, and in turn, we should use this time to celebrate his birth by taking care of each other. Our loved ones already know we love them, and it's great to show them even more during the holidays with gift cards and goodies. But what about those who struggle to keep warm? Jesus showed kindness to strangers... that was sort of his MO. And I think it should be ours, too.
As far as raising ungrateful, materialistic punks, I realize I also had that all wrong, too. I shouldn't strive to make them grateful by depriving them of the luxuries they want, or harping on them about being grateful for the things they already have. Likely, my best chance at raising grateful children would be by teaching them the joy of helping others who need it. Emotionally, physically, materially. I can teach them to be grateful by teaching them to spread the love.
My renewed philosophy on the holidays, then, boils down to this-
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
Love is the reason for the season. We don't have to have Scrooge's millions of dollars to make a difference, either. We just have to harness the power of One- one person, reaching out to fill another's need in love. This is the only way I can think of to truly honor the birth of Christ.
Happy Holidays, everyone!