By: Staci Stallings
Many Christians lament the “taking over of Christmas” by retailers and the world in general. They rail about the commercialization of Christmas, how harried and over-hyped it’s gotten to be, how secularized. They love to tell stories about how their local chain store had Christmas stuff up before Halloween. Maybe they always have. I suspect they always will. But I want to take one small moment and point something out to you.
The “world” has ALWAYS sought to co-opt God. They have always sought to relegate Him to the corner, to push Him aside, and convince everyone that “there’s nothing to see here… oh, look at this shiny thing over THERE!”
I have been thinking of writing this post for about a week now, but last night I got a stark reminder of it once again. My hometown of Nazareth (yes, you read that right) used to produce an entire pageant depicting the Christmas story. You know, the original one from the Bible. The pageant was written many years ago and has, after 15 years in mothballs, made a comeback this year. Because they use literally the townspeople, who number about 400 total, and about 125 are required for the play, they have some who read the lines, others who act it out, some who sing, and some who do the technical backstage stuff. This is no small undertaking. One cool thing is that they don’t stay with only one Gospel. They mix them all so you get the full story rather than bits and pieces here and there. We went to see this awesome production last night, and WOW! I had forgotten how powerful it is.
Seeing your friends and neighbors as the shepherds in the fields, the angels from on high, the three wisemen, Mary, Joseph, and even Baby Jesus. It’s just… WOW!
However, the scene that struck me most (because I’ve been thinking about this post) was the scene with the innkeeper. The song they sing is called, “There was no room for Him… no room.” It tells the story of that moment, when the Savior of the world was to be born, and no one welcomed Him. The moment He was sent to be born in a stable because there was no room for Him the world. Few even knew He had arrived. In fact, the world said, “I’m sorry. There’s no room for You here.” So, you see, this whole, “We’re losing the meaning of Christmas” thing is not new. It’s as old as the very night Jesus came to this earth.
But the end of that song asks a simple question about if there is room for Him in YOUR heart.
That brings me to this post.
Sure, you can rail about no one saying Merry Christmas anymore. That’s easy. But what are YOU doing to keep Christ in Christmas? What traditions do YOU have that remind you and yours what the season is really all about? Are you about the business of passing on a legacy of the real meaning of Christmas? If not, why not?
I love my sister and her husband for a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is because the are both fanatical (in a good way) about establishing GOOD traditions for their kids, and by extension, us. Interestingly, the traditions change over the years, but as one falls away, it is replaced with something equally wonderful.
They were the instigators who got us to go to “Christmas in the Canyon” years ago. That was the cowboy Christmas celebration at the beginning of December. It was celebrated at a local children’s camp. We would go down, have supper, go on a nighttime hayride to the edge of the Palo Duro Canyon, sing Christmas carols, make sugar cookies, then come back up and go to this OLD church and sing more songs. The end of the night was capped off with a sing along around a roaring fire. It was awesome.
Well, a few years after we started going, they quit doing “Christmas in the Canyon” because the main couple that ran it had a wreck. So the next year, unwilling to let a good tradition die, my sister and her husband invited us all over to their house for chili, decorating sugar cookies, and a sing-a-long. That’s our new tradition, and it has stuck.
Some of the traditions I’ve started include singing the old carols with my Sunday School class and explaining the symbols of Christmas to them. In my family, we always have our Christmas meal. It’s the only night of the year when we eat on a tablecloth covered table, by candlelight, in the living room. The kids look forward to it. After that meal, we open our family’s presents. The kids always get pajamas so the have something new and fluffy to wake up in the next morning.
We have certain songs we break out every year at this time… some that are traditional, some that are funky, but all are unique to our family. We have a tradition of going to sit on Santa’s lap and getting a picture taken. We have a tradition of nice dresses for the girls (the only time of the year they get to go to a “real” store–JC Penney’s for clothes). We have a tradition of sending out a Christmas letter as my husband and I both have family in far-flung places.
We have a tradition of it being extra-special to put the angel on the top of the tree (this year it was a three person job up high and a two person job to take the picture down low). We always decorate our tree on December 12. Why? Because the year my husband and I got married, I had a student teaching assignment two hours away. The 12th was the first day I got to be HOME for real. We have decorated the tree that day ever since. We have a tradition of celebrating Christmas with both of our families as well as extended “friend” families.
Last night we got to add going to see the Christmas pageant to our list of traditions.
Each tradition, for us, is another little reminder not just that it’s Christmas but why we celebrate Christmas and passing down to our children how important Christmas is, so they will pass it on long after we’re gone.
So, it seems to me that although the world will always try to push Christ out of Christmas, the real question is: What are you doing in your family and beyond to welcome Christ into YOUR heart? Or will Jesus find a “No room” sign on your heart too?
To me, that’s a choice only you can make. And if you don’t have a tradition, start one. Sit in your living room and read the Christmas story out loud. Sing a few songs. Go to church. Have a special quiet meal. Whatever it is, find a special way to celebrate. You will be glad you did!