I don’t really enjoy the holidays that much anymore. I’ve identified 2 main reasons:
1.) It’s been 5 years since we’ve spent either Thanksgiving or Christmas with any family other than our kids. My kids are growing up with even LESS memories of their grandparents than I did. That hurts deep. And -every- holiday is just a reminder of this year-long fact.
2.) The more I think and observe just what really, truly gets celebrated at Thanksgiving and Christmas, the less I want anything to do with any of it. Thanksgiving has become mostly about gluttony and shopping. Admit it. You are, right now, thinking about what you want to eat next Thursday, or your travel plans to be with family. And Christmas… please. “Christ, the Savior is born” is about the -last- thing it’s about for Americans these days.
Think of all those things that mean “Christmas” to you. At best, you might say “Christmas Eve service candle-lighting” or “Midnight Mass” or “Seeing the Living Nativity”. Scary honest: -I- thought of presents, the tree, carols, cookies, decorations, and Christmas lights ALL before I thought of a poor, traveling couple trying to find a warm, private place for the wife to give birth in. Before I thought about a HOST of angels shocking some shepherds on a mountainside with news that never happened before and never will be repeated. Before I thought about God humbling himself into human, fleshly form – trusting Himself to young, fallible, human parents to be under their authority, patiently waiting 30 years until it was the right time to start preaching for 3 years for people to believe in and follow him… all to die a seemingly pointless death on a cross.
Thank God, ONLY seemingly. BUT… I thought about presents and “sweeties” before I remembered that. And that disturbs me. I feel conditioned to desire something other than Jesus by these holidays. They don’t promote contentment. They promote the opposite. If you don’t have the conventional celebration for either, it means feeling like a forgotten lesser-than. How many of you, if you don’t have turkey, or pumpkin pie or watch football on Thanksgiving or aren’t with family and have presents under a tree this Christmas will feel sad? Like the holiday is pointless?
I know I would. And I HATE that. Because if a holiday celebration is one WORTH celebrating, it’s worth it regardless of our personal circumstances. What could be more pointless than giving lip service to the eternal (if even that), while putting all our hopes for the holidays in the temporary. I’ve spent years doing that, only to end up depressed on the other side, come January.
The pilgrims celebrated a thanksgiving feast because through a lot of BAD decisions and horrible circumstances, a lot of their people had DIED. A. Lot. They were grateful not to be dropping like flies that year, and felt they had God to thank. Most Americans can be grateful for that, too. Even at a homeless shelter Thanksgiving meal, or just eating some fast food on the 28th rather than having nothing, you aren’t starving. President George Washington wanted us, as a nation, at the request of the legislature, to spend a day thanking God for His special mercy, provision and favor on our nation. It had nothing to do with turkey, football, shopping or even being with family. And it’s ALSO something we can be grateful for every day. (Because despite our nation-wide efforts to dismiss our dependence on God, He has still been merciful and gracious to the USA – for HIS Name’s sake, not ours, I have to think.)
Mary and Joseph were separated from their dearest family on Christmas! She gave birth in a freaking stable surrounded by the presence and smell of animal crap and urine. They were so poor than had nothing but some strips of cloth to wrap their newborn in. But unto HUMANITY, that day, an eternal Savior was born. Ancient prophecy finally “came to pass”. And the fulfillment of God’s promise to personally save not ONLY His chosen people, but ALSO the gentiles, was REAL. That is something we can be grateful every day of our lives, regardless of how much the rest of our lives go to crap.
So I find myself constantly re-evaluating what I’m passing on to my kids. Questioning my own heart’s desires. It’s painful. It’s hard. It’s completely counter to what almost my entire nation is gearing up for. A part of me wants to give up and just go with the flow. But more desperately, I want to pass something true and lasting on to my kids, even if I have to put aside the “fun” stuff so that the REAL can have it’s place.
Even if most -Christians- think it’s unnecessary and I’m “ruining” the holidays for my kids.
Because Thanksgiving is becoming just the day before Black Friday. And Christmas is the day we get our gifts that were bought on Black Friday. Forget Lucy’s pulling of the football every year from Charlie Brown. Our nation practices a more massive bait and switch each holiday season.