Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Joyous Kwanza. There is much debate this year about holiday greetings. I find it fascinating that we can get all worked up about the words shared in a store as we buy, buy, buy in the name of Jesus. Christmas is not preserved and Christ is not kept in Christmas by the words we use as we bury ourselves in debt to buy things for other people to add to the stuff that already possesses them. Here is a plan to keep Christ in Christmas no matter what words you use.
Do not leave worship out of your holiday plans! After all, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Why not go to church and thank God for this special child. Also have moments of worship at home. You do not have to peach (if you have children, they will tell you that you already preach enough), but you should spend time in prayer and study. If you have children, include them in special story times, light a family advent wreath, pray together. The church library and most bookstores have resources readily available for this.
Jesus preached that the Sabbath was made for man, therefore, it also translates that Christmas is made for us as well and not the other way around. Do not let the holidays take over your life. Say “no” to some of the demands that will wear you out physically, emotionally and spiritually. Remember the scene of a quiet stable, with shepherds gathered around, all is calm, all is peaceful. Create space during this season for calm and peace in your home. It will be a gift long treasured and may even become shared all year long.
Share the value of gift giving, not by spending more and more, but by sharing special gifts that will have meaning. Children are capable of understanding the importance of sharing with others at an early age. Make the holiday about giving gifts to others rather than merely about what they want Santa to bring to them. Take the child to pick out a toy to give away to Toys For Tots, or pick an angel from a tree and fill the need for someone else. Try to select someone about the same age as your child, someone who probably shares the same likes and dislikes. Help them select something to give away. That can become a tradition that the child will treasure all of their lives.
As for other gifts, make them more personal. Focus on the reason we share gifts this time of year. We give gifts because we have been given a very special gift. If we take the time to really give from our hearts to each other, we may find it more satisfying than buying huge piles of stuff that will be set aside before the next year ends. If you feel the person would understand and appreciate the gift, try giving a gift in their name to their favorite charity, or try a variety of other choices such as Habitat for Humanity, Project Heifer, Bread of the World or even Week of Compassion.
Do not buy into the war of words over the proper greeting for this time of year. The purpose of the season is to share love, hope, and peace for all peoples. This is best done, not with words, but with actions. A wise early Christian told his flock that they should preach the Gospel at all times, and that only when necessary should they use words. The love of God in Christ will be far more visible when a small number act out of love and charity than if all the nation shouted “Merry Christmas” at the same time. Let your actions express the joy of the season and the right words will follow.
Shalom and Merry Christmas to all, Darrell