WHAT CHRISTMAS MEANS TO ME
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord…You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Romans 14:5-10
Each of us has an opinion on how to celebrate Christmas or the birth of Christ. The most important rule for us, as Christians, is not to judge one another. Unity is extremely important to God:
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity,” Psalm 133:1
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Philippians 2:1-2
We make the joy of God complete by being united – “being one in spirit and of one mind” – not necessarily agreeing on every detail. The matters which are very important for agreement are clearly made known in Scripture. The celebration of Christmas is not one of them. The only thing that matters is that we are fully convinced in our own mind that our beliefs give glory to God, and we don’t treat someone who thinks differently with contempt.
I’d like to tell what Christmas means to me, hopefully to bring some insight that brings you closer to God.
I grew up in a family that was very traditional. Near the beginning of December, we would go to a Christmas tree lot, select a tree to bring home and decorate. We had lights and an ornament or two in the front yard.
I remember picturing the manger scene among the lights and decorations of the Christmas tree. I would feel joyful and secure going for a walk and looking up at the stars, picturing the manger scene.
My mother was the teacher of the younger children in the village community center where we had a nondenominational a Sunday school. Every year my mother organized a Sunday School Christmas program. She had been a teacher by profession and was comfortable with children. We would practice often during the weeks before the program. I would draw pictures on each of the four large blackboards with colored chalk. Usually, these would be from looking at the scenes from Christmas cards.
The night of the performance, we would walk the one block up a slight hill to the one room (at that time) community hall. It was packed, often with standing room only, because the whole village would come.
The congregation would sing Christmas carols, Younger children would often say a poem they had memorized. I was often one of the leading characters in any skit. We would all take part in acting out the Christmas story, wearing appropriate costumes. At the end of the evening we would receive the gift that another child had given us according to a name draw a couple weeks earlier. We were each given a bag of candy, nuts and an orange. I loved this event.
I would often save the popcycle wrappers I found while walking along the highway to get coupons for Christmas gifts. Buying gifts for my family was fun. I remember buying a jewelry box treasure chest for each of my three brothers, Eugene (Gene), Steve (Steve) and Matthew (Mickey). I don’t know as they thought the treasure chests were as special as I did. I have one of the jewelry box treasure chest today!
On Christmas Eve all of our close by relatives would come – Uncle Walter, Aunt Ruth and Grandma Harmer, my father’s mother, who lived with them. Aunt Ruth was my dad’s sister and he worked for them as a livestock dealer. Their son Tommy, his wife Janet and their children (younger than us and not born till we were older), Tommy’s sister Allene, her husband Bob and their daughter Stacy (close in age to Tommy’s sons). My sister Linda and I idolized Janet and Allene – Janet was a beautiful blonde and Allene had dark thick hair – they dressed perfectly. They received beautiful gifts from their husbands. We thought their lives were perfect. We children were shielded from the struggles they went through. For instance, Allene’s husband, whom she had met as a dance instructor, turned out to be a homosexual. After many years of trying to help him, they separated. He had a beautiful voice and had testified about Jesus in a choir. He died an alcoholic.
We had the same meal every year – waffles, ham, fruit and marshmallow salad. All night long we could snack on pop, juice, popcorn balls, nuts, candy, fudge, brownies, decorated cookies and other cookies of all sorts.
Everyone brought their gifts (which would fill at least ¼ of the living room) and we would spend several hours opening gifts one by one. After you had received a gift and opened it, you would hand out the next one. I’m not sure I would have the patience to do that now, but then we found it exciting to see what everyone got.
Christmas morning Santa Claus would have come. Like most children, we woke early, but had to wait till everyone was ready to enter the living room. We had a special breakfast of grapefruit, sausage. eggs, toast and orange juice, eaten along with the candy in our stockings.
At noon we were to Uncle Walter’s and Aunt Ruth’s to have a special meal served on good china. We would stay for the afternoon to play games (someone would surely receive new ones) and we had sandwiches of leftover turkey for supper.
It was a wonderful time, and the same every year.
Later Christmas Eve was also a special time for me. Once I found out I could move in with other girls into the apartment for which I had applied. Another year, having had a brain tumor which left me deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, I received a grant from the government to finish my education degree. Jim asked me to marry him on Christmas Eve.
A milestone came when we were first married. We were away from our families and I wanted to make Christmas as special as I could. I made a special meal on Christmas Eve with the same foods we had had growing up. Jim didn’t come home from work when I expected him. When he did come home, he was drunk. I was mad. He said I was right, and then went to sleep.
I went for a walk to get over my anger and talk to God. I looked in the sky and said, “All I need for Christmas is You, Jesus.”
Now Jim has accepted the Lord and is devoted to Jesus. He considers a tree, etc., worldly and we do different things every Christmas as the Lord leads. Sometimes we are close to our families and sometimes not. But because I made that decision when we first married, traditions are not important to me, although we did have some when our children were small.
I do some things every year. I play Christmas music and read portions of the Christmas story on my radio program. I help teach about the birth of Jesus in Kid’s radio and Christian Education – renamed Children’s Christian Club (CC Club). We give gifts to our immediate family. I feel Christmas is an opportunity for people to hear about Jesus. I love Christmas because of the joy I feel concerning the wonderful story of His birth.
This year I only put out a small one piece manger scene for Christmas. We went to a Christmas Eve service at church and someone invited everyone to their home. Christmas Day Jim had lots to do, changing tires, loading a water tank and snowmobile to go on an outreach mission the next day. I finished my Christmas letters and added a few things to our meal to make it special. We talked to our family on skype.
Last year after visiting our son and family in North Carolina where our daughter and family had also come from British Columbia, I stopped at Minnesota the day after Christmas for a few days to visit my siblings and their families for the first time in twelve years. My family has changed as I have – they eat healthy and give very few gifts.
We have some friends that don’t celebrate Christmas at all because of its pagan connections. We have other friends who keep their Christmas tree up all year. Following the principle of regarding “one day as special does so to the Lord” Romans 14:6 both these approaches are acceptable to God. It seems that what He cares about is that we love Him, try to please Him and not judge others. We should agree on the important issues like our love for God and others:
“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40
Anytime we disobey His Word, we are breaking these commandments.
I would only suggest not to be like Martha:
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Martha loved Jesus and had invited Him into her home. But she was so “distracted by all the preparations” that she couldn’t enjoy Him. We should each determine how our actions concerning Christmas glorify Jesus.