Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas or Clausmas?

Bear with me folks, this is a long one. It took me some time to put it together, so if you’re going to read it, I would appreciate it if you read it all the way through.

It’s difficult for me to accurately express my feelings about Christmas. There are some things about Christmas that I absolutely love and there are things about Christmas that I really don’t like much. It’s always an interesting time for me as I try to manage the sometimes conflicting feelings I have about the season. If you’ll indulge me for a while I’ll try to explore my thoughts and feelings about the season and maybe it’ll end up making some sort of sense.

I'd like to end on a positive note, so let’s start with the reasons why I don’t like Christmas.

I don’t like how Christmas has become a very commercial holiday; it seems the only reason Christmas exists is so the the corporate world can make a buck. I was in a Wal-Mart store before Halloween and there were Christmas trees, angels, colored balls, tinsel, lights, Santa Clauses (or is it Santa Clausi?), and decorations of every sort and size. Perhaps I’m just a naïve shopper, but I was really taken aback by this - it seems Christmas goes on sale earlier every year. In the not-too-distant future, we may be seeing Santa Claus in the mall on the 4th of July.

Kids make a list of the things they want for Christmas, listing such things as iPods, Nintendos, cell phones, DVD’s, toys, etc. They sit on Santa’s lap and recite the list to him hoping and expecting to receive the things they request. This attitude of "gimme, gimme!" is pervasive and dominates the Christmas season. Do I blame the children for this? Absolutely not. Do I blame the parents? I think they may share some responsibility for this, but honestly I don’t know who to blame, nor do I know that it’s important that someone receive blame for this. It’s just something I don’t like. On a day we commemorate the greatest gift we, as children of God, have received the only thing people think about are bicycles, Barbies, movies, and what “I’m going to get for Christmas”. It’s disheartening to see.

Santa Claus plays a big role in all of this. The jolly old elf who slides down chimneys, rides in a sleigh pulled by tiny reindeer, checks a list twice that he maintains of every child in the world before he goes on his worldwide whirlwind journey has become a symbol of everything I dislike about Christmas, which is unfortunate really, given the history of Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas. According to Wikipedia, St. Nick was the “primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus.” Apparently, he was well known for giving gifts to the poor – definitely a noteworthy and laudable practice.

I don’t dislike Santa Claus for the history behind the legend, for his tradition of distributing gifts or even for the fabricated story of his existence. In fact, I don't actually have a problem with Santa Claus himself. The problem I have is that Santa Claus has become the central figure of Christmas.

Christmas is not the celebration of a fat man in a red suit. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world – the Lord Jesus Christ. Even with the benevolent background of St. Nicholas, there really is no comparison between the two. Santa Claus’ supplanting of Christ as the central figure of Christmas is really what is at the root of my distaste for what the holiday has become.

A poem, by an author unknown to me, encapsulates my thoughts on this:

At Christmas time there was a man
who looked so out of place
as people rushed about him
at a hurried sort of pace.

He stared at all the Christmas lights,
the tinsel everywhere,
the shopping center Santa Claus
with children gathered near.

The mall was packed with shoppers
who were going to and fro,
some with smiles, some with frowns,
and some too tired to go.

They rested on benches
or they hurried on their way
to fight the crowds for purchases
to carry home that day.

The music from the stereo
was playing loud and clear
of Santa Claus and snowmen
and funny nosed reindeer.

He heard the people talk about
the good times on the way,
of parties, fun and food galore,
and gift exchange that day.

"I'd like to know what's going on,"
the man was heard to say.
"There seems to be some sort
of celebration on the way.

And would you tell me who this is
all dressed in red and white
and why are children asking him
about a special night?"

The answer came in disbelief,
"I can't believe my ear.
I can't believe you do not know,
that Christmas time is here.

The time when Santa comes around
with gifts for girls and boys
when they are asleep on Christmas Eve,
he leaves them books and toys.

The man you see in red and white
is Santa Claus so sly.
The children love his joyful laugh,
and twinkle in his eye.

His gift packed sleigh is pulled along
by very small reindeer
as he flies quickly through the air,
while darting here and there.

The children learn of Santa Claus
while they are still quite small.
When Christmas comes he is the most
important one of all."

The stranger hung His head in shame,
He closed a nail pierced hand.
His body shook in disbelief.
He did not understand.

A shadow crossed His stricken face,
His voice was low but clear.
"After all these years they still don't know."
And Jesus shed a tear.

Christmas is the time we celebrate the birth of the Only Begotten of the Father, the One who came to save us from our sins. He condescended to become like us so we could become like Him. As has been said by His duly ordained Prophet and Apostles, “God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”

The greatest of all was born in a lowly stable and wrapped in swaddling clothes. Angels heralded His arrival, a new star announced His birth, wise men traveled from afar to present Him with gifts, shepherds left their flocks to worship Him. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the great Jehovah was come.

Herein lays the true reason for the season. Above all the sparkling lights, the wrapping paper, the reindeer and elves, and all the hubbub that accompanies the holiday, we should celebrate Christ and His birth. Let us teach our children that Christ is the center of Christmas and all the other traditions or celebrations are secondary to Christ.

This time of year, please consider the things that truly matter and it’s not Santa Claus or presents under a tree, it's not stockings hung by the chimney with care or sugar plums dancing in your head. The things that matter are family, friends, goodwill, love and kindness. These are the things that mattered to Christ when He walked the earth and those are the very same things that matter to Him now and are the same things He would have matter to us as well. Please share that love with the people around you.

Remember what the Grinch said in Dr. Seuss' famous story, after the Grinch had stolen the presents, packages, food and all the trappings of Christmas:

"It came without ribbons, it came without tags,
It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before...

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more."

Merry Christmas and God bless you my friends – may you be happy and loved this season and throughout the year!

Adapted from my Christmas post last year.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Hey! You have a blog too! Saw it on your wall when I was responding...you have a way with words--enjoyed reading this. I totally agree with you that a lot of the world has lost that focus on Christ--sad. In fact--I was teaching my first graders right before Christmas and I asked them what their favorite part of Christmas was, most of them said opening presents. A couple said giving presents or celebrating Jesus's Birthday. I wish I could influence them more, but unfortunately, I can only do so much...

I'm going to add your blog to my list! I love having good reads!