Commercialized Christmas has never been a big deal in my house.
For my family, Christmas wasn’t Santa and reindeer, it was Jesus and the wise men.
We had Christmas traditions just like every other family, but the traditions themselves were just a little different. Instead of leaving cookies out for Santa, we went to our church’s annual Christmas service. Instead of blow-up snowmen decorating our house, there were little figurines depicting the birth of Jesus. Once I was even a part of one such depiction. My aunt and uncle did a living manger scene on their farm; I was an angel–interesting experience.
That’s not to say we didn’t give gifts and participate in the “holiday spirit.”
We watched Frosty the Snowman and placed gifts under the Christmas tree; we were kids, after all. I still remember the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning and rushing downstairs with my brother. We had butterfly rolls, waited for our parents to get up, and rejoiced in the pure joy of gifts in the way only small children can.
However, my parents always made it clear that that wasn’t the true purpose of the season. We weren’t celebrating because we were getting toys, we were celebrating because we had already gotten eternal life in Christ.
That, for my family, was the true meaning of Christmas.
As I’ve gotten older, the commercialized parts to Christmas have melted away even more. The gifts have become less important; the Christmas decorations go up later and later every year. Because, as I’ve gotten older, I have realized that it’s the spirit of Christmas, not the gifts or decorations, that make this time of year so near and dear to my heart. And I have my parents to thank for that. Because of them, Christmas is more than fun and gifts, it is a deep and integral part of my faith.
Being raised with my faith at the center of the holiday season has made focusing on peace during this season a habit. While many people find the holidays to be a busy and trying time, for me, the holidays have always been a time of peace and joy—and acknowledgment of the coming, and the current presence, of Jesus Christ.
The practice of Advent in the Christian church, the weeks leading up to Christmas in which we practice the act of waiting—waiting for Christ’s coming, were hard as a child. Waiting is never something children are good at. However, now that I am older, it is this Advent season, this holiday season, this time of waiting, that defines and encompasses what Christmas is to me.