Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Lot Can Be Wrong with Your Christmas

Today, when I was hanging lights on our Christmas tree, I kept thinking about Mean Girls.

Not a normal connection to make, I know. But Mean Girls is one of my favorite movies for a reason--it's superbly written. Well-written movies or TV shows have quotes that transcend and smack right into your real life. The scene I kept thinking about was when the plastics are looking in the mirror, talking about what's wrong with their bodies. (You can see a poor quality version of the clip HERE.) Cady's inner monologue voice says: "I used to think there was just fat and skinny. Apparently there can be a lot wrong on your body."

That's a little how I feel about Christmas this year. Or at least, that seems to be a message coming through loud and clear from all over the place.

Christmas is stressful. Christmas is commercial. Christmas doesn't have enough Christ in it. Christmas is based on traditions and has nothing to do with Christ anyway. Christmas is presents. Christmas is Elf on the Shelf. Christmas should be none of those things. Christmas trees are pagan.

I used to think there was just religious Christmas and commercial Christmas. Apparently, there's a lot that can be wrong with your Christmas. I get it people--so please stop shouting at me with your Tweets and your Facebook statuses.

For a culture that is increasingly bent on sliding scales of morality and do-what-feels-right-without-judging-others attitudes, we sure do spend a lot of time telling other people how to live. How to feed your baby, how to be the right kind of mom, how to be a good person, how to celebrate Christmas. This year I've seen a lot of posts from people who are christians that say we shouldn't even be celebrating any part of this holiday. I'm not sure what that's about, and I don't have time or energy this year to watch a two-hour video about why (this is the kind of stuff I keep seeing posted).

Here's what I want to say about Christmas.

I celebrate because of the birth of Christ. I believe that there are real and true reasons why we celebrate at this particular time. (For more on that, you can visit the Star of Bethlehem site. It's a little insane what happened in the sky on December 25 of 2 BC. If that blows your mind like it did mine, come see the presentation at our church.) I love this time for considering what it means that God took on human form, even the form of a baby. Clearly, if you've seen my advent devotional, there is a lot to meditate on during this time.

But there is another side to Christmas that I love and that has little to do with Jesus. I love flour on my hands from making cookies with my mom. I love the smell of a real Christmas tree in the house. I love driving around to see the lights on houses. I love the music (at least for a few weeks). I love spending a few hours Christmas morning in my pajamas, surrounded by wrapping paper and eating sausage and egg casserole that my mom makes.

Christmas time has a feel to me, a smell. A taste.  It is fir trees and cinnamon and egg nog and breakfast casserole and sugar cookies and homemade cheese crackers that my grandma used to make. Christmas is twinkling lights at night and wrapped gifts and stockings hanging, whether they are full or just barely stuffed. Christmas is a rolling pin with dough underneath and scotch tape and the sound of scissors slicing through wrapping paper.

These are not religious things, but I hold them very dear. These are traditions and memories that surround this time of year. I celebrate and love Christmas because God came down in the person of Jesus to bring all of us runaway sheep back to God.  But I also love and cherish those Christmas-feeling memories that surround the holiday--and I think that's okay. More than okay. Try and stop me from celebrating this way and you see what happens.

Mindy Smith still has my favorite Christmas album of all time, "My Holiday." In the title track she sings: "Somebody'd say this tree's not real 'cause it stands there every year, but it makes my holiday feel like Christmas, when Christmas time is here."  Yes, Mindy Smith! You go, Mindy Smith.

I don't lose sight of Jesus in all those things I love about the holiday. But they fit right in with the whole package of loving this time of year. Those things make it feel like Christmas.  I haven't looked up why we have Christmas trees (gasp!) and I don't care (GASP!). I have grown up with Christmas trees and I love them and I will have one so long as we can afford one. If we can't afford one, well, I'll cut off a pine branch from my neighbor's tree so I can still smell the smell. Same thing with the cookies and the Christmas candles and the wassail and the stockings.

I've heard Christians try to spiritualize all these things (and maybe there is a spiritual legacy behind them--go google it) and I've heard Christians try to say that we shouldn't have any of these trappings since it's only about the incarnation.  Why can't I have my fruitcake and eat it too?

If you feel strongly about some aspect of this holiday season, you go on with your bad self. I may temporarily unfollow you if you post 18 videos a day or links to articles about one aspect or another of this holiday. I plan to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. And I plan to soak up every bit of the other traditions and memories that, to me, make it feel like Christmas.

Now let me get back to my semi-inappropriate "Jingle Bell Rock" choreography. Thank you.



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