Thursday, December 25, 2008
The year Christmas Lost the "Magic"
This year Christmas lost the "magic" at our house.
Now some will say this is a bad thing. I find it quite good since for so many years Christmas has been more about the dream of the gathering of family and the perfect gift and the warm memories than about the significance of the event.
What caused this change from a "magical", romantic, wonderful Christmas?
First, our youngest turned 10 and Santa became who he is to her - a secular symbol. It is not that she quit "believing" in him, it is that the fantasy of him no longer had a meaning and she became more focused on her part in "Christmas" such as participating in decorating, making items, shopping for gifts for others, and paying a little more attention in church to the significance of the birth of Christ. It was noticeable that this year was less about her and more about others.
Second, we were pounded by so much winter weather that the "magic" of a "white" Christmas turned into the reality of the temperature being too cold, the conditions too unsafe, and the shoveling too tedious. When you have to shovel your drive for the umpteenth time and are running out of places to put throw the stuff, the ho-ho-ho becomes bah-humbug rather quickly and you are ready to throttle the next "little child" who you find out is praying for more snow!
Third, the "magical" gathering of family wasn't. It was better.
Our families are getting older. They have jobs and relationships and lifestyles and live in locations that are spreading out. It is just darn near impossible for all of them to get together at the same time in the same place.
In order to "see" everyone Christmas moves from one huge gathering to a number of small ones. Some are momentary to exchange a gift and a hug, a lunchtime meeting that lasts a couple of hours, to the all day party.
In some ways it is sad not to see everyone at one time, but this spreads out the time and allows for a little more enjoyment of each other. There is less of that "oh, I didn't get to talk with..." regrets.
I have always strived to consider each gathering as if it were our last. I know that seems a little morbid but it also increases the specialness. One day it will be our last, so let us relish in the moment now.
Finally, church services were a little flatter. Our regular church is not real big on the holidays. It is their tradition to downplay the "holidays" and the Christmas eve service is very low key. My wife, however, comes from a background where Christmas at the church was a major celebration with numerous Advent and Christmas services filled with litergy and ritual, trumpets and tympanies, choirs and circumstance.
this year, our church cancelled the Christmas Eve service in advance of expected bad weather and the pastors being out of town. Instead we went to my wife's old church, with her childhood experiences as an expectation. We went to the "contemporary" service and got a rock band (that could have used a better mix) playing some souped up carols ("with a new twist" is how the pastor introduced them), a touch of litergy, a "nice" sermon, and then the evening ended with a very slow, almost depressed, version of Silent Night.
It was not the celebration we had anticipated, but to me it was reminder that the first Christmas had very little "magic" in it.
There was this little baby born in mundane circumstances, far from family and friends, with a minimal celebration. Yes, there were angels telling some shepherds, which puts a little "magic" to it, but that is about it. Life did not immediately change for most of the people at the Inn nor in Bethlehem nor in the rest of the world. Life went on.
This Christmas changed me. It is the loss of a dream, a fanatsy, a romantic vision of what Christmas should be with the reality of what it is - a time we stop and think about someone other than our self, or at least try to do that.
As Christians, though, this is a daily task, not just one set aside at Christmas or Easter or any "special" day. Christ never instituted holidays or celebrations of Himself and I find that very interesting since the Jews had a ton of them. It is because God moved from being out there somewhere at a distance to inside me close to my heart and soul. Every day is a celebration of His birth, His death, His resurrection. Every hour is the moment before Christmas. Every minute His gift to me.
So the "magic" of Christmas left but was replaced by the reality of Christ. A much better thing, I would say.
For His Glory,