As another Christmas season gets closer and closer, I am once again angered and frustrated at the plethora of emails and the disgruntled mutters about taking Christ out of Christmas. As I watch these people tie up their homes in lights and bows and weigh down the Christmas tree with hundreds of dollars worth of presents and they wonder when Christ went out of Christmas.
The humble story of the birth of Jesus is written in Matthew and Luke, two of the synoptic gospels. Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, has nothing about the birth of Jesus. Interesting... The observation of Jesus’s birth did not begin until long after his death: it was when the writers realized who Jesus was that they pondered His birth narrative. The birth observance is in light of His death.
I find myself pulling further and further away from "Christmas" because of the consumerism and the expectations of those who call themselves Christians. They piggyback on the holiday in order to have extended and paid time off work, and use it as an excuse to buy gifts and support the corporate structure that the rightful target of, among others, the occupy movement.
So what to do? Often when I tell people that my family and I opted years ago not to "do" Christmas they look at me as if I have just told them I ran over the Easter Bunny with my bicycle and sent him rolling into a ditch! They cannot fathom how one does not "do" Christmas. I tell them how I took the pressure off my children years ago. When they were young teens by not telling them, "Oh honey, I don't need a present, but here is a $300 whatever for you!" I told them instead that, by not buying them gifts at Christmas, we had -- and still have -- family time and we have family time and celebrate Christmas all year, because we believe in Christ all year. Not just in the bustle and bows of December.
During the holidays, I gather with extended family and we have meals together, visit and share in gifts for the little ones (who are too young to understand the difference). I hug my brother and my sister-in-law, I call my sister and wish her a safe trip as they migrate south for the winter, and I look at the bare apple trees in my brother's orchard and stand in awe at the presence of God's creation and love that was in the first garden. I "do" Christmas all the time. I "do" Christmas by rebelling against the commerce of Christmas, and spend Christmas day with a turkey which I prepare for those who are "alone" for Christmas, and who join us for dinner at church. There are no gifts; just the love of God and the lessons and teachings of Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, a day which was once a pagan ritual day and co-opted by the Christian faith. I remember and share the grace of the One who saves us, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit without throwing money at a gift-buying whirlpool.
So it matters little to me if Walmart says “Merry Christmas,” because Christmas is a state of mind and heart. Instead, all year long I say "As-Salāmu `Alaykum (السلامعليكم)" to my Islamic friends as I greet them, and I will say it to you. Peace be upon you! And may God bless your journey!