I am very open to and accommodating of the beliefs and traditions of other faiths during the holiday season and I veer more toward the "Happy Whatever You Wannakah" way of thinking. But I am not dissing Christmas.
Granted, as a family, we do not go all out for Christmas. The kids usually know what they are getting ahead of time (because I try to buy them what they actually want...and forgo any attempt to "surprise" them) I don’t think we go overboard. I think we are quite practical. There have been times the two sets of parents...Keith and I and their dad and his wife.... have pooled funds in order to purchase a “bigger gift.” We try to keep spending reasonable.
Keith and I don’t do the party circuit...nor do we buy gifts for each other....I don’t bake endless pans of cookies....wrap stacks of presents...deck the halls with more than a Christmas tree and a plaque on the front door....I don’t shop till I drop....but....I have a very soft spot in my heart for Christmas. I can’t read or listen to the “Christmas Story” in Luke without tearing up when the angel declares...
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
There are two holidays in particular when I vividly remember the reading of the Christmas story.
The first one I remember so clearly because I’m the one who had to read it. Out loud. In front of the church. At the Christmas Eve service no less!!! The pastor...Vernon Burrows....had this thing for my voice and the “lilting” (his word) way I read. We lived in Nashville. He was from Texas. It must have had something to do with the absence of a southern drawl....but he called on me to read all the time.
Now the church was small...and there were probably less than 100 people at the Christmas Eve service. We are not talking mega church here....but I was just as nervous. I didn’t know how to pronounce some of the words so I called my best friend, Kathy, several times during the day while I practiced. ”How do you pronounce this. How do you pronounce that?” Kathy was a long time Christian and she, more than anyone, was the person who helped to introduce me to my heavenly father. I worried about it all day...I was nervous but I did it...sweaty palms, heart racing, my kids rooting for me.
One year later, Kathy’s husband Monte, read the same passages from Luke... as we all sat around the big brick fireplace in my family room. Christmas Eve services had been canceled because of the weather but our families, being from the north and not fazed by a little bit of snow, got together anyway. Christmas that year was bittersweet. My sister had passed away that very morning, in the very early morning hours...from terminal cancer that lasted six weeks from diagnosis to her death. I jokingly told my pastor that Vicki was “in heaven” that Christmas, getting ready to "celebrate Jesus' birthday"....along with
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Truthfully, I don't care if Jesus was REALLY born sometime in September...or if many of our holiday traditions were birthed in a pagan culture and really have no connection to Jesus. Christmas is still the season, more than any other time of year, when many pause amidst all the secular trappings and holiday hoopla and, for a moment, however doubting...however fleeting, think about the "reason for the season."