Monday, December 3, 2012

Tis the Season

Well, it's official...the Christmas season is upon us. While different people begin celebrating the Christmas season at different times and for different reasons (we begin listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies starting on November 1st but don't really do anything else to celebrate Christmas until after Thanksgiving) most people recognize the Christmas season to be in full swing by December 1st. Many houses (and some businesses) are outlined by lights, have wreaths on doors and/or have decorated Christmas trees standing prominently in their front window. Most cities/towns have put up their annual Christmas displays. Many churches and some homes have erected their nativity scenes (and not a few incorrectly according to historical evidence considering the fact that the wise men did not arrive until Jesus was at least 2 years old). Every store you walk into is playing Christmas music while red and green dominate the color palate. Yes indeed, it's officially the Christmas season!

Easter is my favorite holiday because of what it represents. But Christmas is my favorite holiday season for all that it encompasses. While Easter is when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus for our sins, I cannot ignore the fact that this never would have happened if Jesus didn't first come in humility as a baby. Though we know that Jesus was likely born in the fall and almost certainly not on December 25th, this is the time that has long been designated as the day to celebrate the Lord's birth so I have no problems recognizing it as such. First and foremost, Christmas is a time to thank God for His love for us in humbling himself to live as a man to ultimately die on our behalf for our sins. As the old saying goes, we must never take Christ out of Christmas!

As I mentioned above though, I enjoy the Christmas season for all that it encompasses. While Jesus' birth is always at the forefront, I do enjoy the music, the movies, the lights, the decorations, the family and friends, the food, the opening of Christmas presents and the overall experience that it offers. I do not believe that these things overshadow Christ; I believe they are a separate element altogether which we can celebrate. In fact, I celebrate and thank God for the birth of Christ every day! This is not something that we should give thanks for only once a year.

Santa or not Santa, that is the question. Many people have many differing views on Santa. I've known Christians who have embraced Santa (in varying degrees and ways), Christians who have been indifferent about Santa and Christians who have been vehemently opposed to Santa. Where should we stand? Well, I believe that this is an area that each person must determine for himself/herself. There is no cut and dry answer. As for us, we are no Santa people while not being vehemently opposed to him overall. Look, St. Nicholas seems to have been a pretty cool, generous guy historically. With him, I have no issues. With what Santa has become I do have some issues though. I'm sure I could think of more, but there are three main reasons that we do not do Santa in our household (again please know that this is a decision that we have come to for us and we are not suggesting that everyone needs to come to this same decision; your decision on this matter is certainly not an essential for salvation). You may be shocked to discover that none of my three reasons are overtly religious in nature. In fact, I have met some non-Christians who do not do Santa for some similar reasons. Anyway, here are my three reasons:
  1. The Letdown - I've seen more than one kid shed more than one tear when discovering that Santa is not actually real. It can be heartbreaking for kids to discover that Santa's not real. While it may be cute for a season, it could have negative impact down the line. Some kids don't have this issue at all. So for some it's a huge deal that Santa is fake and for some it's no big deal at all. The problem...I don't know which category Genevieve would fall under. I'm not prepared to break her heart when she gets older. (There also is an belief out there that I at least partially subscribe to that says that children may also begin to question if you were lying to them about Jesus all along too; Obviously this could be dealt with, but why put myself in that place where I would need to). I know that some people believe that the fun kids have for the time they do believe outweighs the letdown when they learn the truth. I respect that belief, I just don't hold to it myself.
  2. The Appreciation - One of my goals in raising Genevieve is to ensure that she grows up with a proper appreciation for all that she gets. I work hard for my money. I'm not handing over credit to some fictitious guy in a red suit for the things I work hard for. If Genevieve thinks that an expensive toy can simply come for free then she will not have the proper appreciation for it. When she knows that it came via hard work and great sacrifice, she will appreciate it more. Some might think this is selfish on my behalf, but I think it's an important value. While I must guard Genevieve from any stress that comes with finances or anything along those lines, that doesn't mean that she can't have a proper understanding and appreciation for what she has.
  3. The Worldview - This is a more recent reason for me that serves as icing on my "no Santa" cake. I believe that Santa skews children's worldviews. American children (of whom even the poor are among the wealthiest in the world) most likely believe that Santa visits children all around the world delivering them nice new toys. The problem with this...even of the kids whose family does celebrate Christmas, many kids around the world will get nothing for Christmas. They will be doing well just to eat a hot meal. This kind of ties into my second reason but I think it's specific enough to warrant its own point. I think it's important for Genevieve to have a proper worldview which is that most people in the world are impoverished...especially in comparison to the American standard.
So...Santa aside, we enjoy the Christmas season. And, as has been the case with many other days and holidays and events, we will likely not be celebrating another Christmas here in the States with our family and friends enjoying our normal traditions for a few years. In fact, if everything goes according to plan, we will not be celebrating another Christmas here until December 2016. Genevieve will be less than one month shy of turning six. Wow, that's crazy to put into words! As a result, we're going to try to do our best to enjoy as much as we can during this Christmas season. Here's a look at some of the things planned or already accomplished:
  • Christmas lights - We love looking at Christmas lights. Of course, this means that we love driving around and looking at random Christmas lights. But this also means that we enjoy going to professional light displays too. This past Saturday we enjoyed our first professionally created light display when we went to La Salette in Attleboro, MA. Polly and I had been there before but this was Genevieve's first opportunity. And she LOVED it! She gets excited every evening to see the lights come on on the tree and on the house, so to have such a big and beautifully done display was quite the experience for her. The Violettes (the family that has so graciously let us live with them for the past 4 years) came with us. It was their first time and they all seemed to enjoy it too!
  • Christmas parties - Tonight Polly and I will be attending the Southern New England Ministry Network's Central Mass Section's annual Christmas party. I believe this is the 8th straight party for me though it's possible they skipped a year or that I missed one. Regardless I've been to a bunch of them and I enjoy them every year. This is the 3rd straight year that it's being held at the same restaurant which is a great experience. I'm not sure what all is planned for the evening, but we will be among friends and fellow ministers so we know we will enjoy ourselves. This is the first of hopefully quite a few Christmas parties we will be able to enjoy this Christmas season. And hopefully Genevieve will be able to enjoy some too.
  • Christmas gatherings - There are many gatherings of people that I don't quite consider to be a party per se but that are still meaningful and enjoyable. We will be celebrating Christmas with my family this coming weekend. We will be getting together with Polly's family the weekend before Christmas through Christmas day itself. Beyond this, we will be getting together with various friends and maybe family at other junctures which will undoubtedly have a Christmas-feel to them.
  • Christmas plays - We don't currently have any specific plans to attend any specific plays but I'm sure we'll end up making our way to at least one.
  • Christmas caroling - We used to go caroling when I was a kid. Whether we went to a nursing home, a mall or to random neighbors (especially on Christmas Eve when we would go to my aunt's house) we loved to spread Christmas cheer.
  • Christmas events - Polly will be helping my mother at an event they are putting on for some underprivileged children. Genevieve and I will be attending an event that a local church is putting on that same day.
  • Christmas adventures - Of course, there are always other miscellaneous adventures that we plan to enjoy. For example, we are planning a trip down to New York City this Saturday to see the big tree, go to FAO Schwarz and perhaps even ice skate. We may try to squeeze in some time in Boston and maybe other fun adventures.
How about you? Do you look forward to the Christmas season? Do you enjoy any elements beyond the narrative of the birth of Christ? Do you make fun plans? Would it be hard for you to miss three years of Christmas the way your used to it?

I'm sure I'll post again before Christmas but it's never too early to say this anyway, so: Merry Christmas! We wish you an amazing Christmas season as you celebrate the birth of Christ and spend time with family and friends.

In Christ,