By Agnes Mastin
It's Christmas time and everywhere I look there are reminders, that for many, the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour has become little more than a series of competitions that almost everyone is out to win. Competitions for the best gifts inclusive of gift wrapping, the best tree, and the best indoor and outdoor decorations. There are further competitions as to who has the best ugly sweater, throws the best parties, and cooks the best dinner.
Don't get me wrong. It is nice to get together with family and friends to spend time, to reminisce, to eat, drink, and be merry. In fact, the Bible commands it (Ex 23:14). The problem is, that over time, these celebrations became a competition that runs many families headlong into a credit card hangover, while others over-indulge causing murders and suicides to rise during the holiday season. The bulk of Western society has come to believe that expensive gifts reflect the degree to which someone loves us.
It is a gift of witnessing his awesome power and gentle humility.
Very little about how we celebrate this holiday actually reflects the utterly profound gift of Jesus that is offered to us by our Heavenly Father (John 3:16). The gift of Jesus is not just the gift of his death on the cross, it is the gift of how he gave his entire lived life. A life that was spent teaching and modeling perfect loving kindness. It is the gift of wisdom, love, and patience. A gift of witnessing his awesome power and gentle humility. A gift that shows us not only to sit with the prostitutes and tax collectors, but also shows us how to hold ourselves up against headstrong and vindictive religious zealots that live by the letter of the law and not the spirit.
Growing up, our family did not begin our celebrations until the winter solstice on December 20th. On this day, my Dad would take us into the forest to find a tree. True to Indigenous style taught by my Mom, we would give thanks to the tree before cutting it down. This belief that everything in creation has a relationship with Creator is in line with Biblical teachings in which even the mountains sing to him and the trees clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12). The next day, we would all gather to play Christmas music while decorating the tree. Later, my sisters would get to work in the kitchen preparing baked treats.
Rather, it was about giving something that would bring the other joy.
We would then make the trip into town to buy gifts for one another. Each gift had to be small but meaningful, and our parents would sometimes make us homemade gifts...a rag doll, a wooden dancing man, or even home sewn winter jackets made from Hudson's Bay blankets my mother had traded for home-tanned hides. Sometimes, our older siblings would clean up a favourite toy they had outgrown and gift wrap it to pass it onto the younger children.
Although we were not Christians, Christmas was never about receiving the gifts, and it was not about buying something our loved ones could buy for themselves. Rather, it was about giving something that would bring the other joy. There were no demanding letters to a fictitious man in red, no electronic games to open on Christmas morning, but there were packages carefully wrapped with love and placed under a tree that was decorated as a family. I believe this is how Jesus intended our Celebrations to be. You see, the intent of celebrations is to nurture a sense of belonging and take away from stress, not create it.
May you find joy this holiday season as we celebrate the gift of Jesus’s birth. Merry Christmas.
Originally posted on: https://dojustice.crcna.org/article/stress-free-christmas
Photo by Gustav Lundborg: https://www.pexels.com/photo/snow-covered-trees-during-sunset-9429250/
Photo by Patricia McCarty: https://www.pexels.com/photo/jesus-saves-neon-signage-1769691/