Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why I don’t celebrate Christmas.

When I was 13 my parents finally separated, after years of often rancorous family life. They told my two sisters and me that it was about to happen just around Christmas time, which in retrospect, seems cruel. On Christmas day, my dad came home with gifts for all, and an especially nice one for my mother. That was too much for me to take and I left the house crying, and wandered the streets for the rest of the day. I came home in the evening to announce that I would never celebrate Christmas again, in honor of the hypocrisy of it all.

And I haven’t.

It’s been awkward at times, and I've been tempted, by my own children also. I've wrestled with all the arguments every year, about how it can be a good opportunity to witness, give gifts to the needy etc, and I see that’s true for many. Happily for me, my wife was a Buddhist before becoming a Christian, so she’s never cared one way or the other.
But I've learned a few things along the way.
First, I don’t care so much if you celebrate Christmas, as much as WHY you do. When traditions steamroll along, glossing over pain, others feelings or difficult truths that need to be allowed to surface, then that tradition is wrong. Jesus wouldn't have done this.
Next, when widely held traditions begin, they’re usually not accompanied with social pressure to conform or guilt for failure to participate. The church is full of this evil pressure to conform, and it’s an open secret that it substitutes for true loving unity. We should be cheerful givers, and whatever we do without full faith and joy, is sin.
Finally, Jesus asked us to remember his death in the sharing of ourselves with one another, at the communion table. This is supposed to be a feast of love, food, truth and joy. If we put a fraction of the time, effort and money into regular communion that we put into celebrating his birth at Christmas, I think our lives would be richer, happier and more fulfilling together. And more importantly, celebrating his death as He asked us to, as part of a life of communion with Him and close daily fellowship with one another, is a proclamation of His never ending kingdom and His unending rule in our hearts. It declares Him to be alive.
Celebrating Christmas though, keeps Him as a baby, and human only. His enemies, in the church and out of it, must love that. Babies can’t save anyone or can’t answer the prayer of the penitent. Sentimentalism is at the root of celebrating his birth, while eternal life comes from being made conformable to His death, which communion depicts.
So I ask you, why do you celebrate Christmas?
More importantly, do you live in communion daily as He did and does, showing forth His death till He comes?