As I get older, I find myself getting more and more cynical. I've been a little frustrated lately with "society" or the people in control of holiday marketing and then the people who allow themselves to get sucked in. Haha, now that I really think about it, I'm not really sure who I'm frustrated with. Satan perhaps? For trying to distract mankind from the whole Reason why we celebrate Christmas in the first place? It's like a disease: the "gimmes". My kids have it bad and we're constantly trying to figure out the "cure" for it. If I'm honest, I've got it too. "Hey Babe, here's a good gift idea for me." or "Please tell me what you're getting me. You know I don't like surprises." (Yeah... I really said that...) but it's everywhere. You can't go anywhere with out the message of "This is what you NEED this Christmas" or "Go ahead and indulge in this this year" and "Kids, trick your parents into buying this crazy expensive-turn-your-brain-into-bubblegum gift for you". Bah humbug!
I was sitting here realizing that I was quickly becoming Scrooge, so I decided to think back to my own childhood memories of Christmas. My parents are pretty awesome people. Creative, fun, thoughtful and sentimental. There's not a single memory of Christmas with them that didn't make me grin from ear to ear. I can remember my Dad standing on the front porch Christmas Eve, jingling his keys and telling us that he could hear Santa's sleigh so we better get in bed. I remember getting all dressed up to go see The Nutcracker at The Kenedy Center. I remember one Christmas morning when all the gifts were unwrapped and my parents saying, "Wait! What's that last gift behind the desk, Abby?" And yes, it was indeed a Red Rider BB gun. My mother's home made egg nog is still the only egg nog I will ever drink. Always attending the candle lit Christmas Eve service at church. Christmas Eve never would have felt right without it.
Two of my favorite memories are the ones we did every single year. First, decorating the tree. Fire going, bowls of nuts and Christmas records. I LOVED those records. John Denver, Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and The Muppets. Burl Ives has probably one of my most favorite voices to listen to. Something comforting about it. Man. I need to figure out how to record those onto my iPhone or something so I can listen to them again. Getting to spend time together as a family doing something fun and peaceful. Then sitting in front of the tree at night next to the fire, music quietly playing and no lights except the ones on the tree. Love love love.
My second is the "light hunting". Once the lights started going up on houses, we'd take drives and count the lights. Each man for himself. And we did get a little competitive. But you had to count out loud a certain way. "Christmas lights ONE!" and then "Christmas lights TWO!" and so on. Once my kids are old enough to understand the counting (and not fight during the process), we'll do the same. Each year though, we do go out one night to just drive around and look at lights. We stop and share chicken nuggets as a family and then stop at Starbucks so I can sip my Peppermint Mocha while we drive around and admire the lights.
Christmas is about the birth of our Savior. It is a celebration to mark the day that God sent His only Son to earth so that He could fulfill His promise of giving us a chance to accept His gift of sacrifice. We give gifts in light of that. And I think that the celebrating should be done the way my parents did in our family: by enjoying the love and hope and peace of God's gift to us as a family. Spent with those we hold most dear, sharing time and wonder and joy.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. An angel of The Lord appeared to them, and the glory of The Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which The Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about the child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:8-20