Holidays: The Magical and the Real

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More than ever (at least, in my lifetime) the stated reasons for celebrating the seasons are becoming a blurred mix of tradition and religion, of faith and fantasy, and of personal choices and political agendas. We’ve become a society of the overly offensive and the easily offended. We defend other’s rights to opinions, but we become defensive about our own convictions. What were considered important matters are now insignificant ones and small matters have morphed into what some indicate through social media outlets as earth-shattering, world-crumbling, life-altering issues.

As usual, I’m pondering it all. I’m firmly planted in and strongly convinced of some of my beliefs, halfway committed to others (beliefs in my head but no action really accompanies them), and the rest leave me wavering somewhere between being perplexed and being apathetic. This time of year usually produces some sort of mind exercises as I peruse the varied thoughts of others via blogs, FB posts, tweets, and articles. Should we avoid the cultural norms of celebration or should we embrace them? Or is blending the way to go – striking what we feel is some type of balance in it all? Do we mix the magical with the real? How do we communicate Truth to the ones we love and desire to influence for Jesus’ sake?

One the fascinating things to me are the varied “facts” surrounding the holidays we observe. Celebrations (of days or weeks or seasons) have been around for hundreds of years. And tracing these back to their roots – the purpose for which they began – is not simple at all. It appears to me that the one doing the research typically has biases which lead them to their conclusions. It had not even fully registered with me that the very word “holiday” has it’s origin in two words: holy day. It simply means a day or time that is set apart from the rest. So really, wishing someone a happy holiday can have as much meaning as wishing them a merry Christmas. When someone doesn’t know Jesus or care about Him, whether we say “holy” or “Christ” in our greeting really doesn’t have much impact on their lives. Spreading the good news of a Savior isn’t as much about the exact words we use or don’t use when we greet others, as it is about how we live out the very gospel message we sing and proclaim.

As a parent (of adult children now) reflecting on our holiday philosophy through the years, I think our approach was to focus more on the rest of the days we lived than the special ones. I love special days, but in my early adulthood I began to recognize that allowing too great an expectation of something being magically wonderful and perfect – like a birthday or special trip somewhere – often left me disappointed. Surprises can be such fun, but when we depend on the uncommon to somehow provide us enough happiness to survive the routine days until the next uncommon or exceptional, we’ve made an idol out of something that will never satisfy.
I admit that there was not as much intentionality as there should have been in guiding our children through the varying holidays, but neither did we make too much out of any specific days. I’m sure any one of our children would quickly tell you that although birthdays didn’t go unnoticed, they certainly didn’t come with a crown, scepter and royal gifts either! So without necessarily verbalizing it, our intention and goal was to be passionate Jesus followers who raised passionate Jesus followers … every day in every season wherever we lived and in whatever we were doing. We have often failed and missed the mark, but whether we were carving pumpkins or hanging ornaments, it has been our goal and prayer.

As a family, we have had many special and fun moments. We have been blessed by others who have generously shared their toys and lives with us in such a way that our “holidays” – those days set apart from the normal activity, whether that be a vacation or a seasonal event – have been memorable and meaningful. Spending time with family and friends has always been more about who is there than who is not there or what day it is. As our family expands, we know there will be fewer and fewer times we’ll all be in the same place at the same time. But when loving Jesus is the most important thing, it frees us to make every day a holy day and to embrace the ones we are with and to enjoy the One who is always near and good.

Whether or not we parents lead our families to celebrate and decorate on special occasions or we choose alternatives that we believe to be more conducive to the genuine worship of and passion for the One who gave His life for us, may we all seek Him in every season. May we pursue a life that is accompanied by a desire to “above all else put on love and allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, and to be thankful. May whatever we do, everything in word or deed, be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him …
not seeking our own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved!”

And that’s what Christmas … and every day … is all about, Charlie Brown.

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