I remember the drug Christmas was - the twinkling lights, vintage sounds of seasonal classics, the humming of sugar coursing through my veins, the inexplicable phenomena of dancing sugar plums, roving schoolmate conversations on just how Santa could possibly do all that he was credited with doing, oh, and the free soaring elation of dreams come true in the days leading to Christmas morning. It was the feeling that anything could happen; Santa a slave to our desire. Christmas reigns as king of all days for most kids when all wanted is translated and understood in all received. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Poor old St. Nick pimped by consumerism as a delivery mechanism for desire equals happiness, receiving trumping giving and individual, again, escalated above all others.
As a parent, I’ve always felt rather infringed on by the ol’ jolly guy from the North Pole when on Christmas morning Santa is adored for fulfilling my daughters’ wish list. After all, where in the world was he when I waited in eternal check out lines, braved armies of latte laced moms hellbent on getting their shopping carts through the most precariously tight spots and wasted away late night creating mosaic wonder with wrapping paper always cut too short?! Tucked away in stories, songs and magical tradition, sipping a piping hot peppermint mocha. Always the winner and well used to the adulation. Good spot, Santa.
There’s much to be said about the shimmering fantasy that Christmas both is and is not. First, there’s December 26th when the world finally exhales from Black Friday and Christmas morning. Decorations look worn, work resumes and we remember that Christmas feels more like an extended dream than an intentional celebration. Then there’s the facade Christmas can be when nurturing an ethereal fantasy of the most wonderful time of the year distorts happiness and ensures unmet expectations. There’s just no way that everything will always tie together perfectly like a Hallmark family movie special - someone will get in an argument, the turkey will be too dry, the day will move too fast, you will undoubtedly receive a gift causing you to wonder if the giver even knows you, etc.
For many, the idea of Christmas will again outshine the actuality and history of the celebration.
Promise fulfilled. Sin’s grasp threatened in the breath of a baby foretold. Redemption personified in the God-man rising from the poorest of poor. Man’s heart barred from the garden open-armed welcomed into the Kingdom.
In our home, we accept Santa as part of Christmas, along with Christmas trees, lights hanging from our house and gifts, but the story to own them all is that of selfishness ushering in emptiness and brokenness and the unrelenting, decided love of a Father who stops at nothing to make all as it should be again. Advent sets a right rhythm to our observance of Christmas. We don’t wrestle to keep the Christ in CHRISTmas. Advent reminds us to rest in the irrevocable promise of Christ both now and always.
It simply is so easy to live at a ferocious pace in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas day, and in doing so, the season shrinks to a blur of tinsel, shopping lists and seasonal have to’s. As a result, Christmas really does come and go in the twinkle of an eye. There’s so much more to the season that can completely serve as a foundational building block to your children's developing world.
As a means of surviving the hustle of the holidays, I’ve discovered three keys to fully engaging in Christmas as a family.
Set expectation Each year we start at the beginning again. Before the nativity came the need. Four Sundays before Christmas we set expectation with our need for Savior that began all the way back in the garden when Adam and Eve broke away from God and clung to themselves and desire. The waiting in brokenness through time and promise spoken in ancient prophecies leads us to nativity where Jesus entered time humbly. Everything else about Christmas seems to appropriately fall into lined priority as proper expectation is established each year. I want my kids to celebrate and experience the magic and elation of Christmas as a result of God’s promise.
Have a Plan As a means of not being pushed forward too fast by the busyness and bustle of the season, we try very hard at being picky about what we do and what we don’t do. Just this past weekend, Marissa and I sat down to plan and layout our family activities for the month. This has helped me in two distinct ways. Having a schedule for our family events helps me focus on enjoying family instead of trying to do everything. Maybe more important, having a plan is helping me actually save money during the Christmas holidays while enjoying our time more meaningfully. One in three families will push themselves into debt during the Christmas season in an attempt to buy happiness in presents and experiences.
Honor traditions As our kids grow so does our activity. What needs to be maintained throughout the year is family and home, a place to belong and return to. We maintain family and home in our held traditions. There’s nothing elaborate about most of our traditions. During the holidays, the girls always expect movie nights, hot cocoa and Christmas cookies in addition to our family Christmas tree decorating and their little sisters’ Christmas tree decorating event where they have full reign over their own three foot tree.
Christmas can be a mixed bag for many people depending on past experiences, both highs and lows. It’s important to remember to always set the expectation of Christ as both reason and lasting promise as the season begins. In doing so, you and your family will experience joy independent of the hustle and the bustle of Christmas.