Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The real meaning of Christmas

Have you noticed how materialistic Christmas has become? I was disturbed to hear about that person who got trampled to death at Walmart. How is it possible that, out of those thousands, there was not one person who cared enough to help that man up so he wouldn't get killed? Have we become so obssessed with having things, that we take human life for granted?

I am an optimist and I believe there is a lot of hope left in the world. We seldom hear about the Good Samaritans who help others, or the families who share what little they have because it makes them feel good. Those are not newsworthy stories. But those people are still out there, trying to make a difference, and doing their best to refocused our Christmas celebration so we'll remember the reason why we celebrate in the first place.

Growing up, we had no Santa Claus. Our Christmases were not cold, there was no snow. As a matter in fact, December is the beginning of the "summer" in Panama, and Christmas was always warm, sunny, perfect for playing outside. Santa was someone who visited those kids who lived "up north", where it got cold and it snowed. He didn't drive his sleigh down to the tropics, you know.

I never missed not having Santa, and Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I was lucky to grow up in a place where the majority of the people are Christians, so our Christmas celebrations were centered around the birth of Christ.

You are probably wondering how could I receive gifts if Santa didn't visit me. Baby Jesus, the one who truly gives the best gifts, He brought our gifts. I knew my parents bought the gifts and I knew my mom wrapped them and they placed them under the tree. But I knew that without Him, there would be no gifts. If He didn't bless my parents with health and jobs, we would have no gifts. I knew even as a child that He was the real gift of Christmas.

I'm now an adult, raising children in a place where it gets cold for Christmas and where Santa visits every year. My husband grew up with knowledge of Santa coming on Christmas morning, so now we try to incorporate his tradition and mine during Christmas.

It is not easy, and those of you who are parents and are Christians know how secular our celebration has become. We seem to be more focused on how much stuff we get rather than on giving and living by our Christian faith. Maybe it is time we refocused our Christmas, don't you think?

I'm not Scrooge, I like gifts and I like watching my kids open their gifts on Christmas morning. Every year I try to recenter our Christmas around the birth of Jesus. My kids are still young and they probably don't notice but that's ok. Eventually, they will realize that Christmas isn't about Santa, or gifts, it is about the birth of our Savior, about giving, and helping those who need help, and spreading the love of Christ around the world.

So this year I've decided to spend less. Not because I want a fat bank account (well, I do, but that's a long way from happening), rather that money I will not spend on gifts of "obligation", I'm going to use for charity. I'm going to buy one less thing and find someone who needs it more than I or my kids and give to them. I will probably spend more time baking and giving baked goods because that's one way I show someone that I care. I will probably spend more time with my daughter making handmade gifts so that she can put a bit of her love into the gifts she is giving away this year.
I will give my kids gifts from Baby Jesus this year so they will remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

(for ideas on gifts, visit www.rethinkingchristmas.com