Keeping Christmas

[ 11 ] Comments

by RI Editors

Karen Austin at Segullah has a post up about her celebration of Christmas. She says:

What I’m resisting is the omnipresent invitations to elevate every aspect of my life into an art form worthy of the cover of Martha Stewart’s Living.  In response, I take my cue from Bartleby, Melville’s anti-hero.  He sidesteps the expectations of others with the simple-yet-insistent statement, “I prefer not to.”

Every December we face the onslaught of commercialism, busyness, and the expectations of children, extended family, church, school, and self. Every December numerous people write about finding Christ in Christmas. How ironic.

As academics have long gently pointed out, even the nativity story that we tell is a cultural construct with little relation to the actual events surrounding our Lord’s humble birth. What effect does it have on our celebration of his birth and life to remember it wrong?

  • As we enter the Christmas season in full force today, what special considerations will you and your family give to Keeping Christmas?
  • What ideas can you share with others about preventing worldly forces from stripping you of the time, energy, and spiritual focus that preserve a humble celebration of our Lord’s birth and life?

Image credit: painting by James Christensen “Hold to the Rod, the Iron Rod”

11 Responses to Keeping Christmas

  1. Bonnie says:

    We’ve been simplifying Christmas steadily year by year, sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice. Last year we each made our gifts for each other. It was a wonderful December with different stresses (for a gift-idea-challenged person, coming up with 64 gift ideas to help everyone else was a bit stressful) and it was a wonderful reset for all of us.

    This year I realized that I was responsible for our complete conflation of gift-giving and the celebration of Christ and (though it’s too late for this year) next year we’re going to have Christmas in July and do our major gift-giving then so that December is a celebration of Christ unhampered by our gifts to one another and expectations about receiving. Next year we will focus on giving service in December. But I thought of that too late this year.

    We’re also going to do acts of service for our advent, even simple ones, and do a daily “Middle-eastern Moment” where we talk about what the time of Jesus was like for those who lived ordinary lives. I don’t expect there will be too many Martha Stewart moments, but there might be some epiphanies.

  2. Jerri Emory says:

    “How can I serve Thee?” is the prayer in my heart today and I hope to do so every day in December. Our family is focusing on being in tune with the spiritual promptings available to us so that we can act on them and provide acts of service to those we encounter.

  3. We try to get all the gifts done or purchased by November 1st so we can enjoy a relatively stress-free season. Our family gifts are also limited to three for each person, two from mom and dad and one from the sibling gift exchange.

    One of my favorite traditions – we learn about a name of Christ every day in December leading up to Christmas. There are over 200 names He is known by in the scriptures. It takes about 8 years to cover them all!

    Two years ago my six oldest and I memorized The Living Christ as a Christmas gift for my husband. We recited it before any gifts were opened on Christmas Day. It was so beautiful we have made it a tradition to recite it first thing Christmas morning. I catch my kids reciting it to themselves throughout December so they’ll remember and be able to participate come Christmas morning.

    As Jerri also mentioned, we try to focus on seeing the needs of others, letting the spirit guide, and serving those around us.

  4. LizC says:

    Our Christmases are different from some others; for the last two years, and again this year, we don’t put up a tree. We do work together to “embellish” the house, but it’s pretty modest… loads of fairy lights (Christ being the Light of the world), and the Nativity creche takes center place on the mantel.

    For us, our best “keeping” years are when we spend time working together on service, making a lot of music, and talking about Christ. I wonder if this year will top last year. Last year, we had a Christmas Eve Eve devotional at church, Saturday was very quiet and “between times”, and then Sunday we got up and went to church before doing any gift exchanging. It was… well, awesome!! Totally different spirit to the day, much more celebratory. I would love to do that same thing every year, regardless of the day on which Christmas falls. Where better could we be, than gathered together to worship and sing and rejoice? A Christmas morning service full of music would be wonderful, every year.

  5. Mormon Women says:

    For anyone looking for some Christ-centered ideas, there’s a list of them that was posted today at Mormon Women:

  6. templegoer says:

    I’m with Karen. Making my life busier certainly does not increase my appreciation for the Saviour. I try to focus on Christmas as a time for being flexible and familial as far as possible given everyone’s schedule, and keep gifts personal and few. Cards I keep for those to whom I will not be able to wish a Merry Christmas personally, and I try to keep my energy for cooking a good feast. I’m happy to be reminded of the Saviour in the normal kind of way but don’t enjoy big tearjerking moments of guilt, and I’m happy to be as creative as I want to be. Mixing up a conflict in my home between commercialism and an awareness of the beautiful events of the Saviour’s birth is something that I have learnt no to do over time, it just provokes me when my agenda is different from everyone else’s, and hey, kids are kids. So for me it’s all about keeping my expectations of myself and others realistic. People don’t really like being used to make my Christmas special by being my service project, they much prefer a little consistency throughout the year. It’s a random date set by some roman dude, and I don’t want my kids associating a stressy mom with the Saviour’s birth. I’m all about keeping it real, and that’s a struggle. ‘I prefer not to’ will be my new mantra.

  7. Jendoop says:

    All of these posts about finding ways to celebrate Christmas in ways that are uniquely Christ-focused left me feeling that the way my family celebrates is somehow less faithful. Last night our home teacher came over and feeling short on ideas I asked what his family does. His answers were traditional and simple – read Luke 2, watch the church videos on You Tube, give gifts, set up the Christmas tree. He shared them simply and smiled. Then I felt at peace about our similar traditional celebration. Simplifying and making the most of the holiday could mean that for some Christmas looks very much like everyone else’s holiday.

    I don’t think we have to invent some new way to celebrate Christmas to make it about the Savior. In fact I hope my spiritual behaviors aren’t that different from the rest of the year because I’ve covenanted to always remember him, not especially during December.

  8. Bonnie says:

    That’s a really important point, Jen. A mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to look at the goodness around us and appreciate it without being made to feel smaller by it. It’s the same spirit we have when we embrace the gifts of others without feeling inadequate ourselves. We can bring peace to a degree (because how others experience peace is within them) by infusing our conversation with acceptance of others and by responding to others without an immediate need to keep up with the Joneses – even spiritually.

  9. graceforgrace says:

    I’m a creature of habit. I find that if we have traditions that center around the true meaning of Christmas it helps stay focused. These traditions for me have been: attending Christmas concerts, giving a gift to those less fortunate, gathering as a family and singing Christmas songs, attending other church’s Christmas Eve events (since ours doesn’t do this, unfortunately), etc.

  10. James Goldberg says:

    My parents used to get us library books as extra Christmas presents. Meaning: they would go to the library together, look through lots of books, and choose one or two they thought we would really enjoy to check out, wrap, and put under the tree.

    I own plenty of books which I have never read. But because I knew my parents had taken the time to find something special for me, and because there was a due date attached, I actually read my Christmas library books. And without cost or clutter, I still treasure those memories.

  11. Bonnie says:

    I’m writing a post on borrowing and owning today, James, much along those lines! What a wonderful gift your parents gave you – an opportunity and a deadline.

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