Tuesday, January 31, 2006

'Tis the season

"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. . ." (Romans 14:5, 6).

It is the last day of January, over a month past Christmas. This post is for those who are questioning whether or not to celebrate the holiday next season. This is actually a response to Rand's question, but when I started to reply to it on his blog, I realized that my response was turning into an article of its own.

Why address this in January? First, anyone dissatisfied with the season will still have that sentiment fresh in their minds. Second, this will give you most of the year to be thinking and praying about how you and your family will handle this next season. Now, I happen to know Rand, his wife, and his three precious children personally, so I suppose I could have answered him privately. But I got the idea that if one person (or family) asks a question "out loud," then others are probably also asking it silently.

I felt free in a way I never felt before, this year, because we did not do one single thing to celebrate a pagan Roman holiday. This was the first year for us to completely treat the day like any other. Last year the only thing we did was fill stockings for the children and eat a big dinner. That was our way of saying one last good-bye to Christmas, and weaning the children away from it. Getting away from Christmas is our way of saying, "No more compromise with Catholicism or paganism." That in itself is worth the bother to us.

Right away I am sure that there are some who object to the very thought of Christmas being Catholic or pagan. Many Christians are of the opinion that the ungodly of this world stole Christmas from the Christians, but, in fact, it happened quite the other way around: Christians, or, more accurately, Catholics, stole Christmas from the pagans in an attempt to attract pagans to the faith. (You can take a look around and decide for yourself whether or not that actually worked, by and large. Compromise rarely, if ever, attracts the world to true Christianity in any lasting, saving way.)

That is all I intend to say on the subject of the origins of Christmas, or whether you should let such origins affect your decision to celebrate or not. The main purpose of this post is to address the question, "So we don't celebrate any more; now what?"

Here are a few ideas from personal experience and from friends.

What to do about relatives:

1. We don't go visiting over Christmas partly because my mom gets nervous about any of her loved ones travelling in winter, and partly because we find vacations more enjoyable in the summer. Both my and my husband's families live hundreds of miles away, so maybe we have an advantage over those whose families live close by. We have found, however, that most of them have more time and energy, and enjoy our visits more, in the summer when their schedules are not so hectic. Sometimes you can offer to come for New Year's instead. There may still be the "holiday spirit," but this tactic will show that you still want to be with the family even though you object to Christmas itself.

2. My parents usually offer us either a gift sent in the mail, or a check. This year I asked for a check to spend on magazine subscriptions and books. I told my parents that was how the money would be spent. If we had chosen the gift sent by mail, we would have been expected to give suggestions. In that case, I'd have listed some books we've been wanting. My dad LOVES to give books as presents, so this would not have been a problem at all. You could suggest things your children need, or things they've especially been wanting, or one thing the whole family can enjoy together.

Both my husband's parents are dead, but if they were still alive, they, too, would have offered money in place of presents.

What to do within your family, with your children:

1. A family we know who used to visit our church gives their children a certain amount of money to spend on Boxing Day sales. Other than that, they treat the actual day as no different from any other day. They homeschool if it's a week day, and do normal weekend activities if it's a Sat. or Sun.

(If you have conscientious, theological children, be careful about the Boxing Day sales. I mentioned to the family that I might go out early the day after Christmas and get some Christmas candy on sale. My 16-year-old son said, "Oh, yes. Go get the meat sacrificed to idols after it goes on sale.")

2. As mentioned earlier, we "weaned" our children off Christmas by gradually doing less each year. Two years ago, we did not bother getting out any decorations except a miniature ceramic snow scene and a few candles. Last year we didn't even do that, and the only gifts we gave were what would fit in the children's stockings. This past season we did nothing at all, making a clean break from the holiday completely.

3. Explain to your children why you quit. Even a 5-year-old is able to understand a little about the dangers of compromising with the world (talk about "little" sins committed to save ourselves from embarrassment, or to make ourselves more "popular"). The older the child, the more in depth you can get, perhaps even turning it into a full-blown Bible study done a little at a time during family devotions.

What to do with questioning friends:

1. A popular question during the Christmas season seems to be, "So, are you all ready for Christmas?" (Or, to the children, "What is Santa bringing you this year?") After Christmas, the question goes backward: "How was your Christmas?" (Or, to the children, "What did Santa bring you?") It is easy to say you don't believe in Santa. Harder is to say that you don't believe in celebrating the holiday at all, and that your children got nothing. I did not know how to handle these questions at all, so I asked someone else how they handled it.

Basically, my friend simply says, "Actually, we don't celebrate Christmas, but we had a good day. How was your holiday?" This is said in a pleasant, friendly way that takes a stand without being needlessly offensive.

Most of my children have been able to be gracious about their responses to people, since they don't seem to be as sensitive to popular opinion as I am.

What to do with Christian friends/relatives who see nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas:

1. Are they fully persuaded that what they are doing is to the glory of God? If so, you probably won't be able to change their minds by preaching to them. Instead, simply explain your course of action and your reasons for it, and let it go at that. And only do the explaining if the subject comes up on its own in normal conversation. Usually it's best to say only little bits at a time, unless they want to spend a whole conversation on the subject. Don't be defensive or offensive, just state your case simply and briefly, and go on to something else.

2. Have they given you gifts or sent cards? Receive them graciously in the spirit in which they were given, and say thank you. Enjoy the bits of news you get from the family letters typically sent this time of year. Pray for God's blessing on them.

When friends/relatives simply can't (or won't) understand:

1. Stand your ground graciously, humbly, but persistently, just as you did when your unsaved friends and relatives thought you were crazy for becoming a Christian in the first place. They will eventually get used to the idea and stop bugging you about it. Take heart. The first year is usually the hardest.

I am sure that there are plenty of "what if" questions that have not been answered here. In that case, PRAY. God will lead the heart that is truly yielded to Him. In fact, DO NOT act upon any of these suggestions without first praying for God's direction. And if you are a wife (this blog was meant primarily for wives and mothers), DO NOT do anything without your husband's full, whole-hearted approval (a grudging, get-the-wife-off-my-back okay does not count).

May God guide as you pray through this, and other situations that may arise through the next year.

Pearl

4 comments:

Rand said...

LOL!

That would have been quite a comment!!!

Good thoughts/ideas Pearl. I'll be linking this soon.

Later,

pregador27 said...

Okay, great post about something I have been thinking about for next year. I especially loved the following: "My 16-year-old son said, 'Oh, yes. Go get the meat sacrificed to idols after it goes on sale.'" WHat a great, witty remark- just hope it was said with proper respect! :)

pearl of grace said...

Never fear: that particular son is nothing, if not respectful. He is a great kid, and I look for the Lord to do great things with him.

pregador27 said...

May my duaghters be likewise!