My daughter hung our Christmas stockings on the mantle this week.
Sitting in the living room, watching the fire and enjoying its beauty made me rethink Christmas.
What is Christmas really about?
I know the right answer. The right answer is that it is about Luke 2:11, the birth of Christ.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
And yet, most will agree that December 25th is not the day of Jesus’ actual birth. When you take into consideration that it holds many pagan traditions, it draws lawsuits like bees to honey, and was almost trampled to death on Black Friday — it leaves precious little to embrace.
In spite of it all, it is a holiday that still holds deep meaning.
Years ago a Jewish girlfriend told me that they celebrated Christmas. Although they were capable of buying their children the best of everything this family had a strong work ethic and taught their children to work and save for what they wanted. “Christmas,” she confided “is the one day of the year I can spoil them. I can buy them the things I want to give them.” For their family, it had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. However, they embraced the holiday to celebrate one another.
Before you head to the comments to accuse them of only using Christmas to indulge materialism, that’s not it at all. Face it, good parents want to give good gifts to their children. It’s just built into us. However, good parents don’t routinely indulge their own need to give. They understand the harm overindulgence brings. Christmas allows us to celebrate those we love through gifts both material and giving of ourselves.
When my daughters were little, and money was tight, I would buy them each a “Christmas dress.” They were usually collected throughout the year at garage sales. We would spend hours the night before putting their hair in curls. Then on Christmas Eve dress up in their pretty new dresses. Later that night they could unwrap “one” gift. The rule being, Mom picked which gift they could open. It was always a new pair of pajamas.
Truth is that both the Christmas dresses and new pajamas was all a set up. I was staging them for pictures then and in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, they loved getting all dressed up, and looked forward to the new PJs. But, for me it was all about creating and capturing the memories of their childhood.
It wasn’t long until they outgrew velvet and bows. So one day I tore all their Christmas dresses into shreds.
Then I headed to the store to buy a couple yards of red velvet, lace and beads.
I’m embarrassed to admit it took me about three Christmases to finish the project. But eventually I made six stockings out of their Christmas dresses, piecing them back together in a “crazy-quilt” pattern. Then each one embroidered their own names on their stocking. Of course, I made a couple matching, more masculine stockings for the boys.
Along with the trappings of childhood, they left their Christmas stockings behind when they left home. Now, these tattered Christmas stockings are among my most prized possessions.
As I watched Emily hang her stocking the other day, I realized that her days as the last child at home are too quickly coming to an end. The brevity of life, and even more so of childhood, gave me a new perspective on Christmas.
Of course, as a Christian, I want to share the good news that Christ was indeed born–but that should happen everyday. That is the essence of Christianity.
All of what we hold dear of Christmas traditions, the carols the stories the lights and splendor — whatever says Christmas to you, most likely began as a child.
Giving gifts are really for us. When you’re a parent, it really is more blessed to give than receive. Nothing beats lighting up the face of a child on Christmas morning. But it really has to be a lot more than that. We have to create memories. And frankly, very few toys make the grade as being so special they carry the memory of it into adulthood.
The only thing that we can really give them, that will last forever, is their memories of Christmas as a child in our home. What does that look like? How does that feel? Will they want to recreate it in their home for their children?
The stockings that hang on my mantel won’t be full of candy and cheap toys this year–but they are filled with memories.
Creating memories and giving our best to the people we love–that’s Christmas.
What about in your house? When you strip away all the trappings–what makes your Christmas?