Merry Christmas

The following letter was sent to the family in 2008 after Christmas (I did a little editing). After being silent on the issue last year (actually I did get some donation cards, so not all is lost), I decided to resurrect my contrarian Christmas position for the family December post. I believe this all started in 2004.

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Well, it happened again! Christmas 2007 just passed and I didn’t get what I wanted. In fact for about the last three years I haven’t got the Christmas gifts I asked for. I’m getting awfully close to being a “bah humbug” person about Christmas and wondering if there really is a Santa!

I decided four years ago, or so, that I wanted to change my Christmas celebration and explained it to my family. I don’t think they entirely agreed with my idea, but made an effort to go along. As a result, on that first “Neo Christmas”, I got about half of what I asked for with the rest being a regular Christmas. I was real excited about that first year and thought it would little by little get better with each passing year. After all, it is hard to make significant changes in any entrenched tradition especially Christmas.

Now I really don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea that I’m some kind of Christmas “Scrooge”, in fact just the opposite is true. I love Christmas. I love the festive atmosphere of Christmas. I love the gifts and wrappings and trappings. I especially love Christmas music (I’ve often thought of taking one entire year and playing nothing but Christmas music). I love the food. I love having my family together to celebrate Christmas (as I write down all of these “loves”, I’m starting to get into the Christmas spirit). And finally, and most important of all, I love baby Jesus.

As a matter of fact it’s my love for baby Jesus that started this whole thing. Along with most Christians who have thought the same at various times, I have often been bothered by the combination of Jesus and Santa. I am aware that the Christmas/Santa tradition has not always been combined with the birth of Christ. But since almost everyone today knows and accepts that Christmas represents the birth of Christ, and also the yearly Santa spectacular, the two seem to be inextricably intertwined.

My emerging dilemma is the result of having watched for years too many children rip the wrapping off a Christmas gift, toss it aside, and go for the next one (or maybe the next 12)! And adults giving and receiving fruit cakes, ties and the like; items not always needed, but given and received as an obligatory Christmas responsibility.

I realize that we have to separate the Christian Christmas from the Santa Christmas, but in most instances I don’t see much difference between the two as it plays out under the tree on Christmas morning. I became increasingly uncomfortable with the commercialism of Christmas especially when, years ago, an atheist friend of mine had more fun at Christmas than I seemed to! And while Christmas did include the birth of Christ somewhere along the way, it seemed, for me, that there was not enough distinction.

So, I started thinking (dangerous, and always difficult). How can I begin a Christmas celebration that would give me more peace about the whole thing and reflect my personal expression of faith? Not wanting to get into a historical debate about the origin of “Old St. Nick”, I simply looked at the gift giving and its implications. What does Christmas gift giving as now practiced have to do with the birth of Christ?

Well, as every Christian knows, the “Magi from the east” (Matt. 2: 1) brought gifts of “gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matt. 2: 11) to the newborn Christ child. The gifts were for Jesus. They didn’t enter the stable and suddenly everyone began to exchange gifts with each other (maybe if they had fruitcakes they might have)! It seems obvious to me that any gifts given to commemorate the birth of Christ would similarly be given to Him.

Since gifts cannot be given, personally, to Jesus each year, the next best thing, and maybe the only best thing, is to follow Jesus’ own teaching that whatever we do for “one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:35-40). This is in the context of Judgment Day when having given food, clothing, and drink to needy humanity, according to Jesus, we were giving it to Him.

This seems to give me a directive when it comes to gift giving on Christmas. Instead of my receiving gifts, they need to go to Jesus, as they did from the Magi, in the manner He proscribed. This is just for me. I cannot impose this on others who have not so requested. In fact, I enjoy giving gifts to everyone I can at Christmas. I’ve often dreamed, just one time, that I could give everyone what they wanted regardless of the cost. Now, that would be fun!

So, with my new found meaning for Christmas giving, I informed my family that I no longer wanted any gifts for Christmas. Instead, I asked that they simply make a donation to any charitable organization and give me a card indicating such. That would be their gift to me, a gift to Jesus.

The first year I got mixed results. Some gifts to Jesus, and some gifts to me. Over the next couple of years it sort of played out and I started to get my regular Christmas gifts. I get the feeling no one really likes to just give me donation cards even though, in all honesty, those cards blessed me more than any gift ever has (of course if I got, say, a new car, maybe I might feel differently!).

Now I don’t know what to do. As I stated at the beginning, I love the Christmas season! Somehow I need to get back to gifts for Jesus, but I’m not sure anyone will pay attention to me now. The first year my son-in-law jokingly said they were ready for a big Christmas and I was “messin’ things up”! That was really funny.

Well, I think I’ll keep trying to change my Christmas without looking like an old “Scrooge” and “messin’ things up”. I just hope I don’t get a soap-on-a-rope; they never did work real well. Actually while I wrote disparagingly of fruit cakes (because everyone seems to), I really like them! But then again I like Old Spice. I know some are now saying, “You like Old Spice, do you (sniff)?

Comments

  1. Ok Dad, I’m guilty. I’ve slipped back into my old gift-giving ways but will do as you wish. The older I get, the more I understand your heart. It’s anything but a scrooge heart, and one I love very very much!
    Laura

  2. well my brother, would u object if I gave Your salmon to the Jesus that lives under the overpass in Clovis? Alan I truly love and appreciate your heart for our Savior Jesus! May your Christ Mass be rich in spiritual content.

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