*Update: check out the hit-the-nail-on-the-head comments!*
The Holiday Rebellion
About this time last year, I wrote this:
I hate Christmas.
Oops. Did I really just say that? Yeah, I did. I absolutely hate Christmas.
…the last two Christmases for me have been nightmares. The older I get, the busier and less enjoyable this holiday becomes. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, I’m irritable and cranky, and my eyelid actually twitches from all the stress. I wore all black on Christmas Day last year. On purpose. All of our Christmas decorations were back in the attic by December 27 because I was so ready for this blasted holiday to be over.
Why is it that we, as a society, choose one month out of every year to cram in all of our social events, bake too much, eat too much, spend too much, cover every room in our homes with green and red, send mail to every living soul we’ve ever known, elbow hordes of people in the aisles of Target in order to buy gifts for every family member and teacher and friend – most of which they neither want nor need – all the while expecting ourselves and others to sing and be happy and merry and cheerful? It seems that every year my holiday to-do list gets longer and longer, my calendar is completely filled, and I can never anticipate everything that needs to be done.
Is this really how God wants us to celebrate Emmanuel?
I am happy to report – and I’m sure you’re relieved to know – that thanks to some very deliberate decisions during Christmas 2007, the Christmas spirit is alive and kicking once again in the Hunt household. It’s a good thing, too, because last year I threatened to boycott the entire holiday in 2008 if something didn’t change. We shopped early, began baking and freezing holiday treats in November, graciously declined most of the holiday party invitations, spent some quality family time together, and made a conscientious effort to remember what it’s all about.
So here we are again on the cusp of another potentially chaotic holiday season. While I don’t think our family has to take most of the desperate, drastic measures we did last year, I think we learned our lesson about planning ahead and keeping perspective. We need to rethink how we do things and prepare to do them differently. We will step outside The Norm.
I wasn’t much of a rebel during my teenage years, but I think my goody-two-shoes-ness has caught up with me. I rather enjoy defying the status quo and moving in the opposite direction of what a nice little Christian girl is expected to be. I’ve been particularly rebellious during the last few months listening to all the campaign bickering and slander going on, which reminded me of a bumper sticker I saw one time:
God, please save me…from Your followers.
All the finger-pointing, name-calling, slander-spreading, agenda-pushing, stone-throwing Christians have left me slightly disillusioned, a little disgusted, and completely frustrated. I think that – based on what I’ve been subjected to over the last few months – if I wasn’t already a Christian, I probably wouldn’t want to be one. After I vented my complaints to my husband, he reminded me that such hypocrisy simply gives us greater responsibility to be authentic and prove to the world that a Christ-follower doesn’t have to be like that. I’m more determined than ever to be The Real Deal. To care deeply about others. To respect all. To give generously.
I’m all set to rebel against Christmas.
One of my biggest frustrations with the Christmas season is the hasty and futile gift giving. Not necessarily for the kids; seeing their excitement and awe is priceless. I’m talking about the long list of distant (and not-so-distant) relatives for whom we are obligated to buy something that most likely they do not want nor need – but we do it because dang it! it’s Christmas! and that’s just what we do.
We’re shaking it up this year. My inner rebel is about to burst out of my skin. There is a movement that started a few years ago called The Advent Conspiracy. The basic concept is that you look at your normal Christmas gift budget, pray about how God would want you to use that money, then instead of buying useless gifts out of obligation, use part of your budget to make a difference in the world. Worship fully. Spend less. Give more. Love all. That’s their mission.
Our church has adopted this mission and is challenging its members to give to its work in Haltom City, Mexico, and Vietnam. There are even cards to give to let your loved one know that instead of a tacky Christmas sweater or a disgusting fruit cake, you purchased a pair of glasses for an orphan in Vietnam in their name.
Of course, you can choose any charity or ministry – but the point is to rethink why we give at Christmas, what it means to be a Christ-follower, and how God wants us to use the gifts He has entrusted to us. The call of God is not to warm a pew, talk piously, sing songs about how great He is, and then forget about the hurting world around us. The call of God is to care for widows and orphans, provide for those who do not have out of the abundance God has provided us – and sometimes out of what we do not have. We are to love compassionately and actively. Faith without works is dead. If I love Him, I will feed His sheep.
I may just wear black again this Christmas – but for an entirely different reason.