Wednesday, December 16, 2009

not THAT Christmas story...

so i have been discussing Christmas practices and traditions with other young parents and families, esp. regarding whether or not we include a certain fat man in a red suit in our celebrations, which we do not. many questions and generative conversations ensue so i thought i would share some of my observations on this particular topic with you.

this should come to no one's surprise, but for me it all comes back to story.

to clarify, we do acknowledge the story of Santa Claus with our son. we acknowledge that the story of Santa Claus develops historically, finding its roots in Saint Nicholas. we acknowledge that the story of Santa Claus reveals the central idea of sharing all that we have with others. we acknowledge that, for some reason, some of our friends and family feel more comfortable calling themselves "Santa Claus" so that they can have some fun when they give us presents. but we also acknowledge that Santa Claus as a person does not exist. we do not celebrate Santa Claus nor do we display images of or countdown the days to Santa Claus' arrival. instead, we focus upon the arrival of the Christ child. the central story of Christmas for our little family is that we share ourselves, we give gifts to others, and we celebrate Christmas in remembrance of the gift given to the world in Jesus Christ. as the years go by and our son gets older, we are working on helping him understand that Christmas is not some historical once-in-a-lifetime event that happens over 2000 years ago. God breaks into our world in new ways every year and that the celebration is not limited to one day but our entire lives. we are also still working on helping him connect the baby Jesus and the bearded man Jesus as one in the same person.

when we do this not be giant party poopers but b/c we believe that when we include alongside or allow the story of Santa Claus to overtake our celebration, i believe that we tell our children, others, and the world that the story of Christmas, the story of the birth of the Christ child, of God breaking into the world and "moving into the neighborhood" (thanks Eugene Peterson) is not magical, mysterious, majestic, or mystical enough; that we must include some mythical figure with a mysterious backstory and magical abilities to freshen it up. this is simply not true. check it out: angels delivering messages, virgin birth in a stable, stars in the sky, shepherds, angel choirs, wise men, epic journeys, a paranoid king, mass genocide, epic escapes, and on and on. the story of the birth of Christ, of God breaking into the world and sharing human form, is magical, mysterious, majestic, and mystical enough without flying reindeer.

or massive amounts of consumerism for that matter...
i haven't even touched on the fact that the current image of Santa Claus we have is the creation of the Coca Cola company as a part of a marketing campaign to sell more products and is currently used to advertise black Friday sales and perpetuate massive consumerism (and subsequent debt).

what has been so surprising to my wife and i is the resistance we have received from others, from people who believe the story of Christ to be central to their own stories and the stories of the communities they associate with. we are not attempting to ruin Christmas or, more importantly, YOUR Christmas. or maybe we are. maybe we are trying to ruin the idea that Christmas is all about individualized consumerism, where we all get, materially speaking of course, what our little hearts desire so that our Christmas will be "good" and we get through one day to move on back to our regular everyday, individual lives. we are trying to ruin THAT Christmas story. we are attempting to discover a Christmas story about how we help others, how we share what we have with those around us because we are passionate about focusing our entire lives holistically on the love of God and neighbor. we are passionate about informing and focusing our family and community on, what we understand, is the true meaning and story of Christmas. we are passionate about proclaiming the story of Christ as big and beautiful enough without a pudgy, gift-giving mythical figure sneaking into our lives and stealing cookies.



Craig L. Adams said...

Good for you.

followyourbliss said...

Yessssss!!! Well said!!

Anonymous said...

I love your statement about how you are "not trying to ruin MY Christmas." It is funny to me that Christmas is mostly about "me" and what "I" want for Christmas. The "American" Christmas is such a weird enterprise..."we" want Santa and "we" want Christ...and "we" want them both to give us what "we" want and what "we" need. Most of the story we tell about Christmas is about what "we" got.

Christmas is about love coming down to us. It is about love reaching out to us. It is about love living like us, among us, within us. Why so we need Santa to make that happen? The collective gospel story of Christmas tells us that God acted and that God saved. Seems a pretty remarkable story in itself.

The Man Behind The Moustache said...

I want to celebrate Santa, in the same way I want to celebrate you and all your strengths and weaknesses.

I think Santa and Jesus can co-exist and I am fairly sure Jesus is not threatened buy the big guy. In fact I think Santa is really useful in showing the link between the baby and bearded man. Santa, gave up his fortune for the and was exiled and persecuted by Diocletian.

I think Santa can teach you about giving and not expecting to receive. This year I wanted to give a gift I didn't want credit for so I addressed it from Santa not intentionally to honour the saint but if it did then that's good. It is OK to honour great men of Christ; just don't worship them (they'd hate that).

I guess I am not prepared to give up St Nicholas to the coca-cola company I want to celebrate him and if the guy in the red suit is an entry point for people then so be it. I am going to celebrate with those that celebrate.

I am not disagreeing with you, but I do see things differently. My children will get to know santa, I am not scared of him. I hope if they ever end up at a department store and meet a guy in a red suit that they will be so in tune with the Holy Spirit that they'll witness to the actor about just what Santa was all about. I beleive that the idea of a flying reindeer will seem so mundane in the face of the signs and wonders they witness that the coca cola will be a sweet old guy. I pray my kids and those of parents who wish it will be very much in the world but not of it; witnessing their little hearts out.

God bless one and all.