This month I participated in a book discussion on the book “Christmas is Not Your Birthday” by Mike Slaughter.
It is a book that looks at the commercialism that surrounds Christmas and trying to get to the heart of “the reason for the season.”
This short read made me think about things like how we have come to idolize Santa and all the stress that surrounds this time of year. We want everything to be perfect from the presents, food and parties. We focus on how much other people are going to react and view us. Or we try to top what we did last year.
The first Christmas Tom and I were together, I was able to score Blue October tickets. This really was awesome-score girlfriend points for me! Many birthdays and Christmases after that, I felt like I was always competing and trying to outdo myself and get him something even better. Why couldn’t I just enjoy the fact that that is one of the best memories he and I have and just leave it at that? Why do I need to do more or spend more? Was this perfect gift really the only way I could tell him how much I loved him? Why couldn’t I be ok with just buying him a tub of sprinkles and icing? Materialistic reasons I guess, or thinking I have something to prove and something to gain?
So what is Christmas about really? Isn’t it about Jesus being born? Hmmm? A baby being born in less than desired and even scandalous conditions (unwed parents, a carpenter’s son, child persecution, in a stable no less)? Not quite as cool as reindeer flying and a big jolly man who brings me presents!
Goodness we have become pretty selfish people.
Christmas should be about living and giving like Jesus did. If you look at his life, you see that he resisted the obsessions of man. You see a man who cared so deeply for others. He lived as we live and felt as we feel. He had pain and suffering. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He was not plump and have rosy cheeks with a hint of glitter on them. Although I do see Jesus having a hearty laugh.
Here is a quote that I enjoyed the most from the book-“…at Christmas we should celebrate the birth of the Messiah who was born not only to die sacrificially for us but to show us how to live sacrificially.”
I had to think hard about how I am doing this in my own life. The discussion leader prompted us with some tough questions that I was not always ready to answer, but all things I needed to look at. (I think we all have had those “I don’t wanna” moments.)
We should celebrate a life of service. We spend so much time focusing on giving others the “perfect present” that we do not even blink an eye thinking about how we can give the perfect give to Him. All he asks for is for us to give ourselves up. When I think about my grandparents and how much they gave, I am always in awe. But they were always some of the happiest people I have ever encountered. They had so much joy even when they “had” what seemed to be so little.
Now I know these are my beliefs and my interpretation, but wouldn’t the perfect gift be to “love one another as I [God] have loved you?” We were called to serve one another, not to buy out a Macy’s.
As Tom and I discuss starting our own family, this book made me really think about how we want to raise our kids. Of course we want to have our own traditions, and I will be honest we will still give gifts. But we really do want to focus on the service of others. There is a real joy found in the experiences of serving others that I want to pass on to my children. I want them to feel the importance of influencing others instead of always wanting for themselves. Since we do not have children yet, we are still kicking around some ideas on how this may play out. One that we did really like was having our kids go through their toys before Christmas day and picking ones to give away and donating them somewhere.
This whole thing really made me think about the traditions we have and think about the intent of each one. This was a really easy read but had topics that are not always so easy to swallow. I was forced to look at the world through a different lens. I think we are also at a point in our nation where if we don’t like it we tend to tune it out. We don’t want to hear criticisms in a “Here’s Your Good Job Ribbon” society. We talk a big game, but we don’t always walk the walk.
But I think we all need to take a good hard look at how we are living out our lives. I know I am sounding like a broken record about service, but it is such an easy thing to do. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can still believe in humanity. Believe that there are good in people and be willing to give your time and skills for others. Help your neighbor, help a stranger, just be there for others. (Now I am a good pile of mush inside…)
Here’s a little more to restore your faith in something…http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/moments-that-restored-our-faith-in-humanity-this-y
I am sure we have all seen the signs that say “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I understand that not everyone who celebrates Christmas actually believes in Christ, but I would hope that everyone can stress a little less and remember the joy that giving can bring.
Tom posted a status the other day that said “Stop complaining about Christmas season stress, it could be worse.”
Yep you could be a 16 year old mom who just gave birth to her first child in a pile of dung. Oh wait she was in a pristine white dress with a blue scarf with a radiant light all around her…
Christmas is a reminder that God shows up in the most unexpected places. And with all of the hype about religion in schools after Friday’s shootings, I think many need this reminder.
I am sure Mary was not ready for what God has planned for her. She brings a whole new meaning to “16 and Pregnant.”
God understands what we are going through, he sent Jesus to walk with us and sacrifice for us. God knows our pain, and I believe he doesn’t send bad things down from heaven to punish us for not praying in schools. We live in a world that gets messy. We just need to have faith-which can happen anywhere and on any day.
Anyway, take a minute to think about how you view your holiday season. It might give you an opportunity to appreciate things a little bit more.
My craft tonight is for a friend of mine. It’s my first paid gig! Thanks Ashley! It was fun to make.
It was all single stitch crochet. I just alternated the amounts of rows between colors.
Happy Holidays everyone!