Many of us have probably seen the Facebook meme describing the “two kinds of people” at Christmastime. On one side is Buddy the Elf pretty much exploding with joy. On the other is King Theoden wearing a grim expression, with the caption, “So it begins.”
It’s funny because it’s kinda true. We all have those friends who go a little nutso with their Christmas celebrations…I would not want to see a couple of my neighbors’ power bills at the end of December, but their lights have my kids begging to go see them every night. And then we have the (usually self-described) Grinches, who apparently can’t wait until these annoying frivolities are finished.
In reality, though, most of us probably find ourselves somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. I’m currently struggling to find the time and motivation to put up any decorations other than our artificial Christmas tree. (All that work just to have to take them down again in a few weeks? Why??) At the same time, I absolutely love searching out the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on my list, and I’ve been working enthusiastically on our church’s Christmas production for months now.
Yet instead of allowing myself simply to enjoy what I enjoy, I tend to start feeling self-conscious about my Christmas choices no matter toward what side of the spectrum I begin to lean. On the one hand, I feel guilty that I don’t have any lights on the house (as my children remind me daily) and next to zero motivation to do anything about it. Unlike other homeschool moms who display their fun activities on Facebook, I am not doing any sort of nativity calendar or Christmas chain, and even Christmas crafts or cookies sound like a chore. Frankly, I’m struggling just to get in all the kids’ subjects in school right now!
And on the other hand, the more practical side of me often points out that I probably shouldn’t be spending so much time or money on festivities in the first place. There are chores to be done, and a budget to watch, and children out there who far needier than my own. Why should I be spending my valuable resources on such non-essentials? What ultimate good does such merrymaking accomplish? Shouldn’t I be doing more to, say, help my community rather than supporting the spirit of consumerism?
It seems a bit ironic, however, that Christmas would be the time when we might be feeling self-conscious or guilty for either direction we take. Christmas is not a competition of who has the best décor, or who gives the most impressive gifts, or even who does the most to love their neighbor. It’s about how Christ came to earth to take away our sin and guilt and to give us the gift of freedom. If we really feel God calling us to observe His Son’s birth in a particular way, that’s one thing…But we don’t need to feel obligated to do things according to the standards of other people.
For those who enjoy going a little crazy with decorations or gifts, you can remember that there are many instances of feasts and celebrations that God not only allowed, but created. The world is filled with His beauty, and we reflect His creative nature when we make beautiful things ourselves. I also consider the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume…I think this shows us that the most practical thing monetarily is not always the “right” thing. I think God is pleased when we use our resources to bless those whom we love, even if in somewhat impractical ways.
At the same time, these festivities are in no way required. (Some have the opposite conviction, actually.) Again, regardless of how we celebrated Christmas, I think we can all agree that it is not about competing with our neighbors’ décor or making sure we don’t devastate our children by not fulfilling their holiday expectations. We need not feel obligated to participate in all the trimmings and trappings of Christmas just because it is “tradition” or part of our culture. We can do it because it brings us joy! If, however, it brings us more stress than joy, perhaps we can consider doing something a little different. Some families may truly find more fulfillment in donating their time or gifts to the needy rather than spending their resources on themselves. I think that’s awesome!
As for me, I believe I will first of all savor the remainder of my gift search and my efforts with our Christmas program. I will endeavor to fulfill my obligations and to spend some quality time with my children, whether through Christmas-themed activities or not. And if the kids want our home decked out in Christmas lights, I suppose I may just let them have at it and see what they can do themselves! 😉
Photo Credit: All images courtesy of Jessica Cole.