Christmas is almost here. It feels like Advent has stretched over a great expanse of time this year. In honor of the holy day's near arrival, here's a list of things I love, hate, and love to hate about Christmas.
Things I love about Christmas
1. Remembering and celebrating the birth of Christ helps me to remember how God steps into my world all the time, in places, people, and things I least expect. It's easy to feel like we're all alone in the world and remembering this act gives significance to all the little things in our lives and reminds us we're not alone.
2. I love giving things to my kids. Seeing their reactions when I give them something they really want is great.
3. Getting out on a cold night, going up to the church at 11 pm and worshipping is interesting and exhilarating when not done frequently. Walking out of a candle lit sanctuary to the tune of music remembering Christ's birth, and realizing when you walk out the door that it is already Christmas day, is an annual blessing to me.
4. Seeing people become more generous with other people they'd ordinarily ignore is special. I just wish it carried over throughout the year.
5. This year, as has been the case three previous times, we have a new baby in the family. It feels like you have a special bond to Mary and Joseph, as if you can hear the birth narrative in a completely different way.
Things I hate about Christmas
1. Feeling pressured to live up to commercialized expectations. We can never live up to the Norman Rockwell portraits. Bing Crosby has completely screwed up Christmas for everyone who lives South of the jetstream, as I did for so many years (this is my first Christmas that's really "white" and I'm enjoying that...were my previous Christmases less valuable?).
2. Feeling pressured by social expectations. So the rule apparently is (somehow this was embedded in my psyche from an early age) you must give something to everyone who gave something to you. It's bad manners to give them something less expensive than they gave you. It's also bad manners to not have a gift prepared in the event that they show up with one first. Therefore, you must purchase many expensive gifts for everyone that may or may not bring a gift to you. Because, after all, Christmas is all about manners, right?
3. Giving in to the commercial expectations and the social expectations causes most people to go into debt. Is this really what God was trying to accomplish?
4. The generous spirit grabs everybody for a few weeks. People give gifts to charities or serve at rescue missions. You hear the statement, "It feels so good to give back to others." Yeah, feeling good is what it's all about. Giving to make yourselve feel good isn't as pure a motive as giving with the best interest of the other person in mind. Then, after the few weeks of selfish generosity are over, we all go back to our usual selfish and self-centered ways.
5. Christmas has dramatically overshadowed the primary and most-important Christian holiday, Easter.
Things I love to hate about Christmas
1. This is the time of year when the special Coca-Cola cans come out with the snow flakes and Santa Claus on them. I hate the fact that I really enjoy these cans. I actually buy more Coca Cola because of them. Man, I'm a sellout.
2. Food, food, food. Such good tasting food. Sooooo bad for me. Why can't the healthy foods taste good and the horrible fattening foods taste bad? I know it's better to eat chicken than ham, but ham is so deliciously salty, and sometimes it comes with pineapple. I know I'm supposed to eat wheat grass and drink carrot juice. But that stuff tastes like crap. Red meat and chocolate taste infinitely better. Oh, what was God thinking?
3. I love Christmas music, even the songs with horrible theology...even the secular Christmas songs. What's a man supposed to do?
4. Christmas is a time for family. And you have all these family traditions when you grow up. There are great memories there which usually turn into great traditions with your own kids and grandkids. But you still feel a little weird not going over to your parents/grandparents house anymore when they're gone. I love the family traditions, but they can become hard over time.
5. I am sort of impatient and I don't like surprises. However, I enjoy getting presents. It's hard to wait and not peek (I actually have to force myself not to).