During my first year as a Christian, my husband and I were constantly evaluating our lives in light of our new relationship with Jesus. By the time Halloween came, I felt like my life had done a complete 180. It was overwhelming even. I am sure we could have gone slower in our transition into new creations, but I think it is safe to speak for both my husband and myself when I say, when we are in, we are all in. There is no doing something partially for either of us; we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into all of our endeavors. So after a six month whirlwind of change we fell upon the Christmas season.
I have always loved Christmas. For me Christmas was a magical time of Santa, lights, presents and family. I have the most nostalgia centered around Christmas than any other holiday. Every year we would go into the mountains to a Christmas tree farm and cut down a tree. I adopted this tradition after doing it with my parents as a kid. My husband and the kids and I would take the hour-long drive up the hill and enjoy the smell of fall. Fresh cut pines, hot apple cider, rain water soaking into the trees.
Then we would bring our tree home a decorate it with ornaments. Some old, some new, but all special in some way. We would put our star on top and decorate the house with lights and stockings and a singing Santa. I would play all my favorite Christmas songs and sing them all the time. Oh how I loved Christmas!
Well this year Christmas was going to be different. I had never looked at Christmas from the perspective of a Christian before. It dawned on me that Christmas was not about Santa and presents, but actually the celebration of the birth of Jesus. That was a pretty huge deal and I thought that Christmas deserved a certain new respect and honor that I had never given it. Yes it was special before, but not special because of a wonderful miracle and the reason for my amazing new life.
Being a former pagan I was quite aware of the fact that Jesus was not born on December 25th. I studied the history of my pagan roots intently in the past and came to realize that Christians had actually stole December 25th from us pagans. I was completely appalled by this, but I was able to block out all that Jesus stuff and focus on the good about Christmas – Santa and presents. I mean, I couldn’t let those stupid Christians bother me. They stole everything from paganism and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
So as you can see, some things needed to change now. For starters, every year we went broke buying our kids presents. I mean literally. One year, just a year before our life changing encounter with God, we spent our rent money on presents. Seriously. It was more important to me to give my kids a good Christmas than anything else. I had to lavish them with gifts and a big tree, etc, etc. My husband works construction and it was a slow month for him, so our income was not what we were used to. So at the end of the month we were scrambling to come up with enough to pay rent, but we couldn’t. It was all invested into toys under the tree. And so we had to move, because we were otherwise going to be evicted.
It was horribly scary and stressful. I put myself under a lot of undue stress every Christmas, trying to live up to the high expectations I had given the kids. I needed to see the tree jammed with presents underneath it, and the stockings sagging with more. Otherwise, what kind of Christmas was it? It was part of the nostalgia I had for Christmas.
So this year I knew for starters that Christmas could not be about presents and Santa. We had to focus on Jesus. There was some question about whether or not we should even celebrate Christmas, due to it’s completely pagan roots. But after much prayer and consideration we felt that celebrating it was OK, as long as we focused on God. We began to strip down Christmas to its essentials. We did a tree, but kept it lightly decorated. We didn’t want to focus on the tree. We did presents, but cut way, way back. And we added in a new tradition – Advent. Advent was something I had never heard of, and it was really nice to help bring God into the season for us.
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
God had redeemed Christmas for us. He had brought us out of darkness once again. The darkness of our slavery to buying gifts and focusing on money and material items. We did a couple of fun service projects with the kids to help get into the spirit of giving as well. It’s funny because I had always told the kids that Christmas was about giving, not getting, because they were always so obsessed with what they wanted and what they didn’t get. But I was not really teaching them the value that I told them was so important. I was teaching them that Christmas was all about getting presents and them. I was giving and loving it, but they were not.
I am so thankful for that first Christmas we had as a family, discovering a new love for our salvation, life, and the true meaning of it. Hope. Because Jesus came to give us hope that we could never have without Him. And with that hope comes faith and trust and love. And with that comes an open door to do things we never thought we could do, to love in ways we never thought we were capable of. That is the true celebration of Christmas.