I’ve always had an odd relationship with Christmas. I’m cool with the reason for the holiday; I’m just not so cool on the way people choose to celebrate it. As a result I’ve been known to paint a kitchen on Christmas eve, and other odd activity choices over the years.
70 Christmases also give you a different perspective on the day. The 5 or 10 year old sees the day very much differently than an old codger who’s seen his family grow up and move out and his children’s family grow up and move out and his grand children’s family growing into great grandkids.
“For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given…” Such simple words. Not just a birth, but a birth from elsewhere, in some sense that we don’t really understand. They didn’t understand it at the time, and certainly now, 2000 years later we don’t have the science or the data to understand it fully — no matter what supposedly wise men might say on the subject. From the year 2019 every opinion about that first night when a child was born according to prophecy and promise is nothing more than conjecture. Yet millions of us believe the story. Some for good. Some for not-so-good.
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be
upon his shoulder: and his
name shall be called Wonderful,
Counseller, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
Quite obviously, a lot of folks don’t really believe what those words say, to them, the day is about giving, receiving, and having a good time; if possible with family, and if not with whomever they can find to spend the time. I say that not because I’m a cynic but because if they really believed that “the government was upon his shoulders” they would be behaving very differently than they do. The fact is that citizens think of this as a Christian nation but Christ is a long way from our behavior, our public beliefs, and our public morality.
The so-called reason for the season is really very simple. God fulfilled his promise to send a savior. Of course there aren’t many people around who act as if they ever felt they needed a savior. And even if they did, they surely don’t act as if they are very grateful that he came around because their — our — actions can be pretty crummy and even despicable at times. At the moment this nation has armed troops stationed in almost 80 countries around the world pursuing everything except peace — but that is what this wonderful counselor was supposed to bring.
Believe me, I am not down on Christmas. I still have my faith and I try to live it every day. I’m sure other people might think I could do a better job, but the fact of the matter is that each day I am doing my best to live up to what I think/understand. My basis may be different than someone else’s — hence my behavior may be different than what someone else might think I should be doing — but I don’t answer to them, so their approval or disapproval doesn’t really mean anything, now does it.
Others are welcome to celebrate Christmas in whatever way they choose. Or not to celebrate. I believe in Free Will, so I’m not going to force anyone to my way of thinking. Whether or not they agree with me. And at this season when there are some 26 different religious and ethnic holidays I’m glad that people are thinking good things — whatever they are — and doing nice things to others. Lord knows we need more people doing nice things to and for others. There’s not enough of that going around.
I happen to believe — really believe — that the day when He shall be recognized as the Wonderful, Counselor, the Prince of Peace…. and all those things… will yet arrive. I have no problem accepting that God does things on a different scale of time than the 24 hour / 365 day cycle that seems natural to me. I don’t need to judge God from my perspective; after all, that would be about like an ant judging a human, now wouldn’t it. For me it’s enough that he gives me faith, and I care not a whit about anyone who scoffs at faith in this present society. Heaven only knows we don’t really see it very often. And maybe what we really need is to see faith in action to believe it’s possible. I know a few Christians who have told me that directly: that they had not confidence in the idea that you could live a life of faith because they hadn’t seen anyone doing it. They had seen people going to church; but that is habit. Living life by faith is quite something else.
Oh, it’s nice to get presents from family and friends. I agree about that. As an only child I remember receiving a lot of presents. Back in the 1950’s we didn’t have much and my parents couldn’t afford to give extravagant presents. But I always got a lot of packages to open even if they were filled with almost nothing. And I remember one year my dad’s present to mom was a huge packing box that someone’s clothes washer had come in. Dad took that empty cardboard box — fully a 3 foot cube and he stuffed with with crumpled up newspaper (yeah — in those days we subscribed to the newspaper) when it was nearly jam packed he tossed in a particular number of silver dollar coins and shook up the box so that some of them fell all the way to the bottom, and some of them only fell part way to the bottom, and they were all dispersed in the box helter-skelter. It took mom a good long while to tear off the wrapping paper, open the box and bend over into the box looking for all those coins (there weren’t really that many of them) but it was a “present” that we all remembered fondly for years because it wasn’t about the present it was about the thoughtful giving.
To me, that’s still what Christmas is about. God thoughtfully gave us what we needed: a son, a savior. We didn’t treat him all that well. In fact we hounded him and put him to death — speaking collectively. I still believe that the promises God gave are true and some day we’ll see the reality of those promises but thoughtful giving is still a good and important part of life.
I admit to being flummoxed however. Our daughter and husband have such a different life than we. Our grand daughter and her husband have an even more different life. The idea of thoughtful giving to them gets harder with each passing year. What do people today really need that I could give. And I’m not talking about $$$$.
More importantly, if I found something they needed, how would they receive it. Like the “three wise men” received Jesus? Or like the Apostles? Or like Mary Magdalene? Or like the Romans? or Pontius Pilate?
Yeah… I have a strange relationship with Christmas.
But all in all I still wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Feliz Navidad. Happy Hanukkah, and all those other greetings of the season. Be good people. Do good things for others.