Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas on the Outside

And no, I don't mean this is a prelude to showing off the lights on our roof. Maybe I'll do that, maybe I won't.

What I do mean is, it looks like Christmas in my environment--the tree's up, candles are burning, egg nog's in the fridge. But inside my heart, I am sinking into the perennial quagmire. The swamp of emotions that I fight hourly this time of year. The quicksand of feelings that I am one of millions of God's people not doing the celebration of His Son's birth "right." I don't know what "right" or "wrong" is, but how we do this thing called Christmas feels mostly wrong to me.

We cut down a tree. Well, Paul did because Sarah asked, but the boys (not even my little one) wanted to go. So I tromped behind Sarah and her dad, reminiscing about the good ole days when the whole family made the foray into the forest. I forgot to take the damaged lens off my camera, and so when I went to shoot the two of them pointing to "the one," nothing happened. My bag was in the truck, and I was too daggone cold to go back for the good lens. My feelings? Angry at myself for being unprepared for what may be the last time Sarah gets to cut a tree down with her dad. She might be married next year, who knows? My feelings? NOOOO! Don't get married. Stay my little girl! I'm envying people with little kids for whom everything is fun and exciting (and can be done on the cheap).

I decorated said tree with Paul and Joel. Paul did the lights, I hung the fragile ornies, and Joel put up the rest. The number of ornaments was probably half what we had last year because, over the summer, I went through all the Christmas stuff with Sarah and threw out whatever wasn't meaningful. If it wasn't homemade or wasn't given us by someone we loved or didn't carry any special meaning, out it went. Unfortunately, I also let Sarah talk me into throwing out all the old stockings because she convinced me there was chocolate and mint and gunk stuck on them down in the toe from year to year, and look how old and cheapy red they are and don't I want to go with something nice and new and pretty? I had been in a pitch it/ditch it mood, but I had clung to the memories of the kids coming down the stairs every Christmas morning to line up for a picture all together with their stockings. My feelings? Guilt and regret. I don't know if I regret being talked into pitching the stockings (they could have been dry cleaned) ) or that I can't manufacture happiness by filling old velvet socks with candy and gum. If I could put a future husband in Sarah's or a job in Ben's, I would. (Ben could get the job ASAP. The future husband would have to pass parental inspections and pastoral interviews, and THEN be put on hold for 14 years. I mean, if Jacob had to work for Rachel, so can ___________.)

I think what bothers me most is that, contrary to what we Christians like to believe, Jesus is not the "reason for the season." Well, he's not the Only reason. I hate to pretend, but I do it, going along with the illusion that Christ is central this time of year. I wish, as I have for the past many years, that we had two separate holidays: one called Christmas where the only thing we did was Christ-centered: no eggnog, no Bing Crosby, no stockings, no shopping, no making a wagonload of cookies. I love those things. But why do them and then say "Jesus is the reason for the season"? Who are we kidding? Contary to what "The First Noel" purports, Jesus wasn't born with knee-deep snow on the ground and his mother wasn't sipping hot cocoa in a smelly stable. My guess is Joseph was feeling financial strain as he looked upon this new family of his, but not because relatives were expecting restaurant gift cards in X dollar amount to be "stolen" from Person A by Person B because Gift A was better than Gift B. (I guess a connection could be made: "manger"--French for "to eat"/Jesus' humble birth in a cattle trough and our fighting over PF Chang's vs. Outback gift cards. Makes sense to me. )


Is Jesus the reason for the season? He should be, but He's not. I wish we would just own up to the fact that not even WE know how to do a Jesus-only celebration. Instead, we tack Jesus on to get-togethers with family AND friends AND gifts bought under duress AND pretty programs AND mental stress AND financial strain AND...we exhaust ourselves trying to fit it into a work schedule that doesn't lighten up for most of us until AFTER the Big Day.

Maybe you can't relate. Maybe all your family members are Christians who just LOVE to be together and everyone's relaxed by the fire. Or maybe you're thinking I'm a cynical Christian, which is an oxymoron, and I have lost my focus and shouldn't vent like this. But I think somewhere between the "hap-happiest" and "crap-crappiest" feelings about the season is where I am.

I don't want to chuck my tree. I like getting and giving presents. I enjoy seeing people's pictures in the mail and welling up when I hear "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" and tasting warm Polish tea cookies and hearing the Salvation Army bell, and watching the "Christmas Story" with its BB gun and leg lamp.

I also love Jesus and can't, for the life of me, figure out how to treat Him right in December.


Anonymous said...

That was just wonderful Mrs. Zo. You pretty much summed up everything I've been thinking about why I hate Christmas! Do you mind if I put a link to this post on my blog?

Anonymous said...

Maggie, I don't mind at all. I just wonder if you and I are alone in our views? I have talked to God many times about this subject.

Anonymous said...

IF I've left the same comment more than once, please forgive me. There seemed to be some technical difficulty!

Anonymous said...

I feel this also, dear sister in Christ!
I'm so glad I'm not moaning alone! I know what you are saying and I agree!!!
Is it partly our season in life?
Christmas with all the wrappings is complicated for many of the reasons you wrote. If I think too hard about it I get sadder than I should for many of the reasons you wrote...However in all my "weariness" (the one word I'm choosing to describe a multitude of feelings come this time of year) I remember the words in John 1:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Remember. Remember. Remember!
He IS the reason and our hearts know it full well not only in the complicated Christmas season and Advent, but always, always, always! Christ is our Life! Colossians 3:4!
Okay, I think I'd like to share some Christmas tea with you (okay, it wouldn't have to be Christmas tea!)
Be encouraged and Remember Christ, Who is our life!
PS Sorry about the comment length.
I CAN shut up!

Rachelle said...

I was beginning to think I was simply a "scrooge" because I get sick of feeling pressured to be a certain level of "happy" at this time of year. I am actually very stressed out from all the requests put on me by other people (make a costume, bake a cake, bring a dish, help us decorate, bring a gift, lend a hand). I would like to sit at home in sweet heavenly peace!