The Christmas Pressure for Christian Families
Submitted by Jennifer Power
I love Christmastime. I always have. I know not everyone loves all the craziness which often accompanies the holiday, but it has always been my favorite time of year. Lately though, I have been troubled by the thought that we as a society cram way too much into this time of year. It is as if we try to take all the best of the human experience and stuff it into one “meaningful” month.
Think about it. Christmas is the time of year where we:
- Practice giving (and receiving) good gifts
- Serve and give to those we consider less fortunate than ourselves
- Send out cards or letters to everyone we know and love
- Bake Christmas cookies
- Redecorate the inside and outside of our homes
- Practice traditions such as Santa Claus and Elf on the Shelf
- Attend extra church services
- Attend (many) Christmas parties and gatherings
- Celebrate Family
- Watch Christmas Movies
- Focus on the birth of Jesus
- (and probably more)
Considering the normal day-to-day tasks still need attending to in this time of year, it sure is an awful lot to expect sane people to accomplish. Especially for Christian parents, the task of “successfully” completing the Christmas season can leave you feeling like an exhausted failure at the end. We all know we want our children to know Christmas is about Jesus, but how in the world do we expect that message to come through in the midst of all the other activities?
I have wonderful memories of Christmastime growing up, and these memories certainly contain elements of celebrating Christ, but many of the memories involve gifts, cookies, lights, movies, and other “worldly” things. Although most of the time I enjoyed attending the candlelight 11:00pm Christmas Eve service at our small town congregation, anticipating the celebration of Jesus’ birth is not what kept me up late into the night on Christmas Eve, full of excitement.
I am not so sure this is a problem.
When I think about what I want Christmas to be about for my kids, I have trouble narrowing down the focus. Sure, I want them to practice kindness and generosity and celebrate the birth of their Savior, but I also want them to have memories of fun and lights and cookies and parties and to squeal with excitement when they receive that gift they were so hoping they would receive (After all, especially for children, receiving good gifts from their parents is an important part of being able to receive good gifts from their heavenly Father and to understand the joy of giving – thought it can certainly be done to excess and often is).
So how can we as Christian families possibly find balance in this crazy time of year? Here are three suggestions:
For starters, we can be sure to incorporate serving and giving into our holiday routines. Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, Angel Tree Gifts, giving to the Salvation Army bell-ringers, and finding opportunities to serve are great ways to start.
Next, we can be sure to incorporate Jesus into our celebrations – read the Christmas story, attend worship opportunities, and pray together as a family.
Third, we can breathe.
Christmas, after all is not the only time of year we can teach our children about giving, serving, and about the life, death, and love of our Savior Jesus. Jesus is about life and life is about Jesus. Christmas is certainly about Jesus, but so should be every day and every moment of our lives. If we put pressure on Christmas to be this unique and special time of year where we impart Christian principles to our children while neglecting to do so the remainder of the year, then we should fear falling short in this goal at Christmas time. But, if we remember it is our ongoing duty as Christian parents to model and teach our children how to be followers of Jesus, then it puts a little less pressure on Christmas to be perfect.
So this year, let’s enjoy the season for what it is and let go of what it fails to be, and let’s remember to center not just Christmastime around Christ but to center the very whole of our existence around Him. If we do this, our children will certainly catch on so much better than if we try pack what it means to be a follower of Christ into certain times and seasons of the year.
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!