I must admit I’ve had my share of “Bah! Humbug!” moments this year.
My resistant attitude kicked into gear when I saw a department store’s first Christmas display, along with a suggestion to get my holiday shopping done early. “Good grief, it’s July!!!” I wanted to scream.
By Halloween, I routinely declared to anyone who cared to listen, “I don’t want to even think about Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, folks.”
By Thanksgiving, my resistance had escalated to full revolt. I informed family and friends that I did not plan to go anywhere near a department store on Black Friday. Furthermore, I planned to boycott any business that made its employees leave their families in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner so adult customers could get a head start on fighting over the latest must-have toy.
Paul Hayden, editor-in-chief of ConservativeTruth.org and a personal friend, may be my polar opposite politically, but he shares my sentiments about the materialism surrounding Christmas. “I have been somewhat cynical about Christmas sometimes – not so much the day or the spirit, but all that seemed to surround and even engulf Christmas,” he writes. “The commercializing of Christmas bothered me even when I was a kid. I liked getting gifts, but not the advertising of Christmas, using the beautiful and wonderful birth of the Savior and Lord Jesus in order to SELL stuff. It really messed it up for me.” (Read his article HERE.)
If there truly is a War on Christmas, it’s not being perpetrated by the Walmart greeter who wishes us “Happy Holidays!” or the barista who hands us a plain red cup at Starbucks. The real culprit, to my mind, is the consumerism permeating our society, crowding out the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place – Christ entering our world.
So the YouTube video Advent in 2 Minutes got me thinking. (Click on the image below to watch it.)
“If you’re sick of Christmas by December 25, you haven’t done Advent correctly,” the video asserts. “Advent isn’t about shopping, stressing, planning or buying. Advent is expectant waiting, hopeful anticipation and joyful preparation for God coming into our lives and hearts in all moments, all places, all times – past, present, future. Commemorating the birth of Jesus, welcoming God into our lives every day, preparing for Christ’s second coming.”
The video, produced by Busted Halo (a ministry of The Paulist Fathers, a religious order of Roman Catholic priests whose Website can be found HERE), offers several suggestions for getting through the holiday season without succumbing to the pressures of the commercialized world. Volunteer at a hospital or soup kitchen. Spend extra time in prayer. Be patient with our families. Speak kindly to strangers. Go to church. Share hope with those who need it most.
So … time for Take Two …
I started Advent this year with an annual tradition of listening to Handel’s Messiah all the way through while putting up Christmas decorations. My favorite part is the Hallelujah chorus, which I could listen to over and over again like a teenager, so I’ve been playing it periodically while I’m at my computer as well. I absolutely love the “Christmas Food Court Flash Mob” video, created by Alphabet Photography in 2010, in which the Chorus Niagara gives a stellar performance of the Hallelujah chorus at a mall in Ontario. It seems so appropriate, reminding shoppers of the true meaning of Christmas.
I also love the song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, and I have a soft spot for talented kids who sing. So one can imagine my joy at coming across a Christmas version of Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” sung by 10-year-old Kaylee Rogers and the Killard House School Choir. Killard House is a school in Northern Ireland that serves children with special needs. I hope Kaylee, who has autism, and her classmates realize what gifts from God they really are!
At church, I renewed my efforts to follow our choir director’s advice. “Think about the message,” Jan encouraged us during our weekly practice sessions, as we rehearsed Advent and Christmas selections.
When our church put on its annual Christmas pageant this year, I must admit I was dubious. A “pop-up” pageant? Rather than participation by children only, members and visitors of all ages were invited to take part. “Come ready to hear the story of the birth of our Savior and imagine yourself in the scene!” its organizers suggested, as members were invited (cajoled, snagged) to stand in as angels, shepherds and all the other roles. My husband (pictured below, right) was recruited, and the whole thing turned out to be memorable.
What to do about gifts?
In addition to my distaste for battling crowds at department stores, our family circumstances present special challenges. Between us, my husband and I have family members scattered over ten states and three different countries, which makes seeing everyone impossible. So we hit upon a solution – instead of buying a bunch of STUFF people don’t really need and figuring out how to get it all delivered to people we can’t visit, my husband and I are making a small donation to the charity of each recipient’s choice.
Our family members chose a nice variety of deserving charities – from Big Brothers Big Sisters and a ministry in Guatemala to a couple of women’s shelters and an organization that benefits veterans. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how this decision would go over with the younger children. But I was in for a pleasant surprise – if anything, some of the kids seemed to warm to the idea even more than the adults. Several of them opted for animal shelters.
I’m also learning about some charities I didn’t know existed. One of my favorite discoveries is Lumos, which focuses on issues involving the world’s most vulnerable children (website HERE). Named after the light-giving spell in the Harry Potter books, the organization was founded by author J.K. Rowling. “She’d be one of the billionaires listed by Forbes,” explained Eric, our 21-year-old nephew and fervent Harry Potter fan who chose Lumos. “Except she’s given away so much of her money, she no longer qualifies.”
Now there’s an attitude that could make the world a better place year-round, I thought.
Merry Christmas, everyone!