For years, I have struggled like so many Christian moms and dads to find the balance in Christmas. Between the commercialization and honoring Christ. I feel like Charlie Brown, “Can anybody tell me what Christmas is all about!?”
I often read other blogs where the parents seem very negative toward the Christmases we grew up with, with packages and stockings, Santa Claus, and sugar plums. Often, these blogs suggest a stripped down version of Christmas more befitting a humble baby in a barn. I am usually left feeling guilty for celebrating Christmas the way we do.
I think the idea of a humble Christmas is right and good. I believe that some of the most meaningful Christmases happen without ribbons and tags, packages, boxes and bags, because, yes, Christmas doesn’t come from a store. However. . .I also know that we celebrate an exquisite gift from the King of Kings! A king who loves us and desires to feast with us in the splendor of his love. A glorious, beautiful, merciful King! Not only the humble child he became.
So here’s how our family does it…
We have a Christmas tree.
It’s evergreen branches represent the everlasting life offered to us by our Heavenly Father. It’s shape points to heaven, causing us to look up and remember Him from whom all blessings flow. It’s topped with a star which reminds us of the Star that announced the birth of the Messiah. It is decorated with gold representing the his royalty, white for His purity, and red to call to mind the blood he shed for us. It also has lights, as does the outside of our home, to remind us of the Light of the World (John 1). The tree itself is also a reminder of the tree that our Savior hung upon as he died
Our presents, which we share to as a reminder of both the gifts given to the infant Savior and the Eternal gift from our Father in Heaven, are wrapped in kingly gold with blood red ribbons. As I placed them under the tree this year, I was moved to tears as I looked at the cascading ribbons like flowing blood on the perfect, royal gold packages.
We started a tradition of reading the Luke 2 Christmas story, acting out the story with our nativity,and lighting candles with our children before they open their presents. Then we give each child three gifts, one for their body, one for their spiritual development, and one just for fun. These gifts remind us of myrrh which was used in burial preparations (for His body), frankincense which was used by the Jewish priests (his Spirit, he was the Priest of Priests), and gold which was, of course, a royally precious metal for the King of Kings.
We love to bake gingerbread men too. And as we do so, I will say to my children, “Did you know, in ancient times, people used strong spices as part of the burial preparations. When Jesus died, his body was covered in spices. Jesus said that he was the Bread of Life.” Even our special treats can point back to Him.
Perhaps the Christmas conundrum is part of the mystery. Perhaps the tension we feel is a reminder of the strange dichotomy of the Creator of the Universe, the Savior of all mankind, the most holy, glorious King of Kings and the heart-breaking humility of a savior born in a stable to two poor teenagers and crucified on a rough hewn cross between two thieves. How could it be so?
I hope that in teaching my children these things, along with charitable acts, that we will somehow combat the over-indulgence of “commercial christmas” and plant seeds in their hearts to understand the true spirit of Christmas. And perhaps, the abundance of grandparent gifts and even Santa, will leave an emotional memory to draw on as they realize that the gift from God is so much better than even that wonderful feeling.
PS Most of this info I gleaned from a favorite book of ours, The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel. She shares the meanings behind many of our Christmas traditions, many which were altered from pagan celebrations as they were converted and carried traditions in to their new faith.