I've been a bit quiet lately because, well, we've been crazy busy. But also because the month of December frustrates me.
Yep, I said it. The Christmas season, the best time of the year, the culmination of the year grates on my last nerve.
To be fair, it's not the season or the month or the time that annoys me. It's the people. One glance at my facebook feed, and I become overwhelmed with Santa debates and elf on a shelf discussions and don't forget the constant reminder to "keep Christ in Christmas."
The whole thing makes me what to hide under a blanket until January.
Don't misunderstand. I'm not judging. A few short years ago, I was right there in the middle of the fray. I agonized over whether allowing my kids to believe in Santa would cause trust issues or take away from the "true" meaning of the holiday. I over-compensated by throwing "Happy Birthday, Jesus" parties on Christmas Eve complete with cake and singing. We even blew out candles! Whenever anyone asked my kids what they wanted for Christmas, I was quick to prompt them to share that the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. On Christmas morning, we read the Christmas story, then I peppered my kids with questions to make sure they "got it" before they could open presents. And the big ticket item gifts were from mom and dad, not Santa because, why would we allow some mythical person to take credit for what we had done?
But over the past few years, something has become very clear to me. How you choose to celebrate Christmas ..... DOESN'T........MATTER.
Frankly, neither does how you recognize Easter or Halloween for that matter. Because the very things we are trying to encompass, to embrace, to teach during the Christmas season are lessons that come over time, not over a month.
I've worked with kids since I was a kid myself, and there is something I can promise you: if you are not disciplining your child all year long, teaching him right from wrong, demanding respect and honor, showing love and mercy EVERY SINGLE DAY, why on earth do you think that he should / could / would suddenly learn these lessons in the 24 days before Christmas? And should the motivation really be to get presents? I'm fairly certain that doesn't quite translate in real life. Actually, I know from experience that it doesn't. Furthermore, do you really want your kids to learn these things in response to an inflated "magical", mythical version of a dead person and a creepy looking elf (sorry, that elf on the shelf thing creeps me out (-: )
What happens when the elf is gone? Or the belief goes away? What's the motivation then?
And about the keeping Christ in Christmas thing. Look, I'm not saying that we shouldn't take advantage of this amazing opportunity to share our faith publicly. When else do you hear praise music on all the stations of the radio? I'm just saying this: If you are not keeping Christ in the other 364 days of your year, that one day WON'T......MATTER. And as parents, we should be living out our faith every day in front of our children so that, in the big picture of things, Christmas is just another day in which we get to celebrate Christ.
Here's my point: celebrate Christmas with your family in whatever way makes you happy. If you love going all out and doing the Santa and Elf thing, good for you. That's awesome. Have fun with it. (For the record, we do Santa "lite", and when we told our 12 year old the truth 2 years ago, he was not devastated and did not feel betrayed. He understood the game for what it was and is thrilled to get to play a part in it for his sisters now. As to how the others will react, I'll have to let you know.)
If you want to use Christmas as a time to focus in on the birth of Christ and what that means for you as a believer and child of God, that's wonderful. Do it. Throw that birthday party. Sing happy birthday to baby Jesus.
And if you want to do a little of both, go for it. There is no right answer. But whatever you decide to do, remember this. Christmas only affects a small, small portion of the time you have with your children.
What are you doing with the rest of the time you have with them?