At church on Christmas Eve, several people asked me what my plans were for Christmas Day. Most were surprised to find out that my husband and I would be spending a quiet day at home with our animals. Our only plans were to meet my mother at IHOP for lunch.
Today is the fourth day of Christmas, and my husband and I have both gotten the question, “What did you get for Christmas?” Again, people are surprised when we either dodge the question or admit that we didn’t exchange gifts on Christmas. People are surprised to learn that we haven’t put up a tree in years. Not since the children were small enough to want to make Christmas decorations.
Most people assume that we have something against Christmas or that we have bad memories and don’t want to celebrate. Neither are necessarily true. We care very deeply about the holiday, but we both prefer to focus on the Christian holiday rather than the common American traditions. In fact, the older I get the more I feel like the traditional trappings of Christmas distract from my ability to appreciate and celebrate the Christian meaning of the holiday.
More and more, I find myself wanting to deeply embrace the religious experiences of Advent and Christmas. I want to spend the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas not at parties or out shopping but in contemplation and reflection. I don’t want to give or to receive material things but rather want to give and to receive acts of kindness and love with no monetary worth. On Christmas, the only activity I really care to participate in is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
For some, this may seem restrictive or puritanical, but I’m finding that more I allow myself to indulge in this desire, the closer I grow in my relationship with Christ and in my communion with others. I’m finding that finally admitting my feelings about Christmas and being with a spouse who shares my feelings is incredibly liberating. I am free to simply be, living in the knowledge that God is the gift of the season.
What did I do for Christmas? I sang to the Lord, serving in the choir of my church with my husband and daughter in the congregation. I spent time with my mother, who is missing her childhood home, her siblings, her other children, and her grandchildren.
What did I get for Christmas? The Lord our God became incarnate, so he would understand our life, our pain, our joy, our sin, and our death. In the days ahead, our God will exist with us as his Son, our Savior Jesus the Christ. Our God will sacrifice his only son to pay for our sins and to create a new covenant with us. What more could anyone ask for?