If I were a cheerleader, I’d cheer for Christmas.
Christmas has always been huge in my family — tons of decorations, celebrations, feasts, presents and Christmas Eve church services. This year is the first Christmas I will spend apart from my family, and we’re a little sad about it. We know it will be hard to be apart, but we’ll see each other several times before that day.
I’m using this time to examine my thoughts about Christmas, since Mike’s family’s traditions are very different from mine. I’ve learned a lot about the history of Christmas through them and it’s given me much to consider. I’ve learned that Christmas shouldn’t have anything to do with Jesus or his birth, based on the fact that in the Bible neither Jesus nor anyone else says that we should remember His birthday (conversely, we are told to remember his death and resurrection) and in fact, we don’t even know His real birth date.
We can love and honor Christ apart from anything to do with popular holidays. Rather than try to focus Christmas on Christ, they’ve explained, we should accept that the two have nothing in common and just celebrate it for what it is — good cheer, festivity, presents, family. In essence, let’s take the Christ out of Christmas and let’s just have…mas. In Spanish, that would be MORE.
And I’m always all for more.
In fact, I think I’m well on my way to more. This December has already been decorated with several events that are indeed mas but have absolutely nothing to do with Christ. Years ago (even last year) I would have felt a twinge of guilt for celebrating without focusing completely on Jesus, but now? Bring on the mindless merriment!
Christmas Tree: To start our season, we got a tree. Yes, it’s alive, and yes, it’s the same height as me: five feet five inches. We love our tree because it makes our home cozy and cheerful, it holds meaningful symbols (baby ornaments, second grade pictures of Mike, gifts from friends), and it delays us having to buy a new chair to fill the space it occupies. (If you look closely, you can see a cross ornament…so I guess I haven’t figured this out quite yet.)
After all, Christmas trees were virtually forbidden by our colonial leaders in 1659, when a law was enacted that made any “heathen traditions” such as Christmas carols, decorations and trees a penal offense involving a fine. We Rephs enjoy setting up our tree without paying a fine.
White Christmas: The same night that we got our tree, we attended “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” musical at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater. Two other couples invited us to dress up and go out on the town, and we thought nothing could be more Christmasy than the stage version of the Bing Crosby movie (which I had only seen once and Mike had never seen). It was uncomplicated, plump, shiny and almost too cheesy to bear — and that was entirely the point. “May your days be merry and bright” indeed!
Tacky Themed Dress-Up Party: Every year we are invited to a number of parties that require an ugly sweater, santa hat, or this year, 80’s ski gear. The only thing 80’s ski gear and Christmas have in common is snow, I suppose, but we went with it. The results speak for themselves.
Cirque de la Symphonie: Certainly the highlight of the Christmas season so far was attending the mind-boggling circus acts performed in front of a full orchestra playing classic Christmas favorites. Mike took me and my sisters to Benaroya Hall and we all gasped our way through this stellar performance. Previous to this evening none of us had seen a man in a handstand on another man’s HEAD with only ONE HAND.
The champagne at intermission didn’t hurt, either.
White Elephant Gift Exchange Parties: Two of these are on the calendar this year, one of which happened at my workplace — I arrived with a bathrobe and departed with two bags of candy. Lame. And what could be less Christ and more mas than giving gifts that are utterly random? Myrrh and gold are not random; those gifts were intentional, I assure you.
I totally respect those who see Christmas as a holy holiday, because I do too, to some degree. After 25 years it’s virtually an innate response. But I love examining why we do what we do, and seeing if we can do it differently and still be honorable.
After all, when it comes to Christmas carols, for every “…the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love,” there are just as many “…oh bring us a figgy pudding, oh bring us a figgy pudding, and a cup of good cheer.”
As for me? This Christmas I’ll ponder the wonders of His love — while sipping a cup of good cheer.