Now that I have your attention, you are probably asking one of several questions. Not the least of which is the contradictory nature of the title itself. How can I both hate Christmas, and not live without it? Maybe you’re asking how someone who has made no attempt to hide the fact that they imperfectly follow Christ hate the day that celebrates His birth? Or maybe you’ve come to the same point and you just haven’t articulated it. No matter how you come to read this, it is my hope that we can get to the point where we cut through the tradition, and the presents, to the giver of the ultimate present of all time.
You see this is the reason I hate Christmas. Not because of what it celebrates, but because of what it has become. Instead of celebrating the birth of a God named baby, it has become a God be damned battle for things. Can anyone remember what they got last year for Christmas? Let alone from whom? And if you can remember, how thankful are you now? Does it still work? Or, have last year’s gifts joined the pile of other toys and must have gadgets gathering dust? Sure that’s not always the case, but I’d venture a guess that what I’ve described isn’t just my experience.
We haven’t even fully addressed the frenzy that is Christmas shopping yet. The day after we proclaim how thankful we are, we are out fighting with one another over the best deals. But wait, not this year, we couldn’t even wait for Thanksgiving Day to be over this year. There just aren’t as many shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we need just one more. What about slowing down just a little so that we can remember the real reason for celebration. God with us. Immanuel. Isn’t that enough?
Seriously, what have we done with the day of Thanksgiving? And what have we done with Christmas? We worship at the altar of materialism, not in humble awe of what God did some 2000 years ago. We take our children to have their picture taken with “Santa”, we don’t even explain who Santa Claus even was, and why the real Santa Claus or St. Nicholas even did what he did. Instead we perpetuate the myth of a man who can fly through the air behind rain deer that can fly as well. We say he knows if we’ve been naughty or good, “so be good for goodness sake.” Is it any wonder that many kids have a hard time with the real person behind Christmas? Namely, Christ?! They get to college and all the professor has to say is that Jesus is just like Santa Claus, and what happens? The myth we tell them innocently enough evaporated, and now the truth just as easily vanishes. Will they question everything else we tell them too? Will they believe Jesus? Or, will they wonder if Daddy & Mommy are lying about Him too?
As I write this, I know I’m going to be labeled by some, and maybe even my own family as “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” But, the real “Grinch” isn’t me. It is all of us. Because the real Christmas isn’t about “presents under the tree”, or “kissing under the mistletoe”, or “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday cheer.” No, the real story of Christmas is a love story. The story of God’s plan to redeem man. The story of God become man, and born to die.
I’m tired of pretending that perpetuating this myth this is a good idea. That it is harmless fun. Let’s tell the real story of St. Nicholas. It’s a good one. Why not start a different tradition based on reality? So, sure, give gifts, and graciously receive them as a reminder of the greatest gift of all. How can we ever hope to transform culture if we go right along with them buying in to the same myth?
In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I manage a retail store, so we obviously like it when people buy gifts. However, if we only make it if you buy something you can’t afford, because you think you need it, or you can’t do without it, then we really haven’t succeeded. That’s not the kind of memory we want to help you preserve.
Now you know I hate Christmas because of what it has become. I love the part of Christmas that has God leaving glory to be born, and ultimately dying, “that man no more may die.” That is by far the best gift ever. And if that’s the only gift I need, then I don’t have to go fighting through the crowds for the current fad.
The beauty is this isn’t a gift to be hoarded, it is a gift to be shared. There’s no line to wait in, and it is never out of stock. You just have to be living, and accept the gift.
Nothing would make this a better Christmas than discovering that somebody reading this accepted God’s gift, and is now following Christ. Not even the $1800.00 Movado watch I saw a commercial for, and not even an iPad Air. In fact, as much as I’d like an iPad Air, and I’d really enjoy it… if it meant you wouldn’t even consider the best gift of all, I’d rather do without it. Everything I own will crumble, but I’ll get to spend an eternity worshiping God with you. Why wouldn’t anyone who believes this give up everything now for this prospect?