It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Hold on to that thought... I'll be returning to it. Shopping malls are lavishly decorated, radio stations have begun playing Christmas music and advertisements proudly announce Christmas sales. Special foods my countrymen eat at Christmas are filling up the grocery shelves and people are frantically buying up fruits for our local Christmas fruitcake and ingredients for other local Christmas fare. I'll be sharing a few of our local traditions and foods in another post.
I recently went to one of the most prestigious malls in our country and there were gorgeous ceiling-high Christmas trees, giant ornaments and rotating snowflake patterns projected onto the floor. Quite impressive....oh and there was a Nativity Scene. Where? Tucked away behind one of the escalators...almost hidden from view.
There, in the main atrium, stood a lavishly decorated 40 foot tree, beside which many people posed for pictures, but Our Saviour, "the reason for the season" was set aside...a side attraction. I didn't see anyone taking a picture there!
Christmas has become another reason to eat, drink and be merry. It has become a tool to boost sales, a time of excess and insobriety. Santa has become the central figure of Christmas, the focus on receiving presents. Shopping and making sure homes are looking their best for the entertaining of friends and family has priority over anything else at this time. The paint stores do a booming business at this time of the year.
Did anyone else notice the words on that card in the first picture? "The Spirit of Christmas"...on a Christmas Tree laden with presents, with an image of Santa in the background! Is that what the spirit of Christmas is all about?
People are so focused on preparing the tangible, the homes, the presents, the food...they forget to prepare their hearts.
I have grown to dislike the phrases "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" and even "Merry Christmas". When I was a teenager, our parish priest explained the vast difference between 'merry' which suggests revelry, often the drunken kind and 'happy' which suggests joy. When someone wishes another a happy Christmas, he or she is wishing the other the peace and joy of the Infant Jesus.
He or she is reminding the other that Christmas is about the fulfillment of the promise of God to send a Saviour to redeem us... a happy and joyful occasion. Did God intend for it to be a merry one?
Are all of the ways in which we celebrate Christmas, the way God would choose for us to celebrate this historic, phenomenal event? I'm not trying to imply that there's nothing good about the way we celebrate. Certainly at Christmas time lots of people spread goodwill and help the needy and poor and provide a good Christmas for the underprivileged. Christmas time works the miracle of bringing together people of all different races and creeds and, even religions.
Its a time when the peace and goodwill of God seems to spread over the earth. We are told that on that Holy Night, all of creation worshipped God and celebrated. There is a magic in Christmas. Have you ever heard the story of The Christmas Truce that happened during World War 1? Take a little read of it here and here where some of you will be lucky enough to have the story played out on the stage in your area.
This is what Christmas is all about. I have come to learn that preparing my house and all the trappings is but secondary. I must first prepare my heart. This is the purpose of the Advent Season, beginning this Sunday 27th November...the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the time we prepare our hearts for the coming of the little babe who was born to become Our Saviour.
I have found so many little nuggets of inspiration across the blogosphere lately. I have read of so many wonderful Advent traditions of other families. I plan on adopting some for my own. You can read about some of them here and here and here and here.
This year I want to put the focus right onto Jesus...from the very beginning. I plan on decorating my tree with mostly angels and stars and things that will remind me of that Holy Night. I plan on keeping up my Advent Wreath prayers this year... the best of intentions always seem to fall through. I get caught up in the baking and fixing and shopping... just like everyone else.
Not this year! This year I'm determined to give to the Lord, the best of myself and make sure that my heart is in the right place... that my motives for doing all that I do in this busy season is for love of Him and not to impress others or out of a sense of duty to tradition. This year I will offer to the Lord a birthday gift of a bouquet of roses, each one is an act of love, some an hour spent before Him in adoration and reparation. This is something I have strived to do each year and never quite fully accomplished.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... in the place where it matters most.. my heart! My friends, I want to just encourage you to examine your own hearts and, while we're running around shopping and planning and making sure we're giving to our friends and family, let's make sure we're also giving to the One who matters the most in this joyful season. Let's not get too busy to remember to keep Christ in Christmas... to keep Christ in our hearts.
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