Decorations on the Christmas tree scintillated with a glow that warmed the living room with the most wonderful permeation of tranquility, excitement, and familial love. Each of the decorations were carefully handpicked and chosen for the occasion of tree-decorating for our family room. Presents of all colors were neatly organized around the tree, extending at least a foot and a half from the tree’s outermost bottom layer. Entering the main tree room was like entering a Christmas store; there was so much holiday decor that one would be amazed this was actually a house. Christmas growing up was all about Santa Claus, stockings, presents, and hot steaming cinnamon cider over a lit fireplace. Looking back now, I recognize the missing piece which was absent from my family all those years—Jesus had not been injected into our soul, but only into some of our traditions; He had become a name, a religious logo, and an event—but nothing of a personal friend or Savior.
I haven’t put up a Christmas tree for many years now. After the first few sentences of the above paragraph, you might wonder why Christmas wouldn’t hold a special place in my heart. I will tell you—at one point, it did. And even in some ways taking shape now–it still does. But, you could say that I’ve stopped trying to recreate the memories of my past Christmases because they only remind me of the trauma that took place after my parents divorced. Christmas for me is still slowly being transmuted from the fatal blow of drastic familial schism to the grateful celebration of the glorious birth of Christ.
But, there’s more.
Once I actually received Jesus into my heart, everything changed: my perspectives, my decisions, my outlook, and most importantly—my sense of purpose. After years of asking questions post-discovery (of the Christian God), what came to me was the importance of the distinction between man-made events and events inspired by the supernatural; of which the most obvious to me was Christmas.
After heavy reflection on my past with the opening of my heart for the future–what became poignantly obvious to me was the way society mistook Christmas as a holiday directed at advertising the North Pole as more significant than the God who came down in the flesh of Christ to renew our spirits with a love only He could offer. Ever since this realization, I’ve quickly tossed out the idea that immaculately dressed Christmas trees and exquisitely wrapped gifts hold nearly as much significance as they did before I accepted Christ. But, hear me readers, this isn’t me taking a stand against gift-giving. Please let me explain.
While I don’t dismiss that gift-giving is a beautiful, humanistically tangible expression of love, I have also gathered the opinion, based on my own life experiences, that gift-giving should make a person feel good, not obligated, to take part in; that it should be out of love, not coercion, conceitedness (i.e. “I have this much money so I’ll give my friend the best gift of all”), or any selfish ambition. My thought is, if gift-giving feels so good, why are so many people so incredibly rude at the store and equally dangerous on the road driving home to give the gift to their loved one?
Before entering the family room with the gorgeously decorated Christmas tree—and even prior to arriving on the scene of my parents’ house by just entering the driveway—you would notice the passionate effort of a family devoted to shining Christmas spirit into the street for all public to witness; with hundreds upon hundreds of lights carefully folded and wrapped around anything we could place in our front yard.
Misguided, however, was the “Christmas spirit” we were celebrating: we extolled the mysticism of Santa Claus; the child-like caricature of St. Nick (insofar that Christmas is underscored by sentimental songs and platitudes, stories of love; singing for peace, harmony, and joy; all virtues of Jesus, but with all the credit carefully denuded from the indubitable person of Jesus–and instead, inhered to the idyllic, man-made version of a God-made cornerstone event; a man-made event which references nothing of that of the origins of Christ, who so inspired St. Nick to become the man who we admire in the “spirit” of Santa Claus), rather than the spirit of the soul, derived solely from the hope of Christ’s infamous birth as the main source of celebration. No doubt, Christmas as a secularized holiday instigates the transient, seasonal display of many generous deeds; all done, however, in the name of the holiday… not always inspired from the progenitorial soul of the holiday itself: Jesus’ birth.
My family decorated the house with Santa Claus and elves, saints, and other characters of classic Christmas stories of old—but seldom with that of Jesus. We had one setup of the manger scene outside, and maybe one or two inside, but most noticeable was how the fictitious was raised as the glamorous, as Santa and the elves took precedence over the celebration of the Savior of our species, and more alarmingly—the reason for the holiday.
It’s no wonder the idea of Jesus seemed one-dimensional and incomplete after my parents divorced. At the time, my thoughts were, “What kind of God destroys everything my family created? The problem was—and what I’ve come to realize years after all the trauma and reconfiguring the misconstrued interpretations of a weak religious upbringing—I had placed the spiritual weight and dependence of an imaginary God on my parents and family, deifying, in fact–the absence of the deification of anything supernatural (in other words, atheism), and in turn, stripping away the glory and worship of God.
See, I’ve been blogging for a while now, and, in many of my previous posts, I’ve written about how I was raised Catholic. But the truth is, upon careful introspection, I have come to realize something significant in the truth of my upbringing. While growing up pre-divorce, my parents never spoke to me about Jesus in such a way as to encourage me to believe in Him, or His love for me. When I “became” an atheist at 14—as I’ve come to see now—it wasn’t hard at all, because I had already been one. I had followed the rules of Catholic church, recited all the lines from the pew books, kneeled when they said to kneel, said “amen” when we were supposed to—but I never actually believed for one second that Jesus was real. And so, when my parents divorced in 1999, God planted the seed in my heart; the spiritual seed I would need and learn from later on—8 years later on, in fact—just how desperate for a personal relationship with Jesus I needed to be to come alive. To be reborn.
But let me continue.
Christmas as a holiday is, for me, a memory of a time when my family devoted its spirit to the mystical ideologies of the world, and not the soul of the purpose of the world’s creation: relationship with Jesus. My family promoted the Christmas season as influenced by a society believing more in—and taking more seriously—the ideologies of mysticism and pantheism; not the reality and future of its spirit through Christ as Lord. Secular society dictates holidays as merely fun and games, candy, gifts, and movies—but our souls bellow in desperation for eternal fulfillment from the emptiness of the void we leave barren; vying for a reason for the meaningless, vacuous celebrations missing intrinsic value.
If you stop to think about it (please take a moment with me here, readers), what really is the point of a holiday represented by trees, presents, and actors in costumes? Furthermore, what is the meaning of a holiday, leaned on by believers and unbelievers alike, who may or may not view the holiday with reverence, but with potentially subjective degrees of veneration? What does this kind of celebration reveal about humanity’s spirit when we can’t (or refuse to) even explain the reason for such a holiday beyond mere mysticism? We call a child naive for being too innocent to understand the difference between Santa Claus and religion, and yet the majority of our country celebrates this holiday in some respect or another—all the while pretending to give substance to the virtues and purposes of a sanctified event by playing a part in a game they don’t even believe in, nor comprehend (or care) enough to explain. Ultimately—how are we, as adults, any less naive?
With regard to meaningful celebrations and purposeful holidays–what is the point of Santa Claus? Why are we drawn to his image? Something I find ironic is the way some people base their skepticism of Christ on the fact that His story and message are so ancient, yet they turn and expend the same skeptical effort into absent-mindedly revering Christmas by celebrating a proselytizing saint, fattening him in a red suit, backstory, and believing more in the magic of his fantastical histrionics than of the soul-renewing truth of Jesus’ reality.
If you know St. Nick’s history, we know that he was inspired by Christ, striving to implement His ways through love and generosity. If this is the notion Santa Claus is founded on, then which is more effective: To emulate the emulator, or the emulated; Santa Claus/St. Nick, or Christ? Generally, when we feel inspired by someone, we may be curious as to what inspires them to be the way they are, that we might understand the qualities of the source of the inspiration we are uniquely drawn to through the indirect emulator (in this example: St. Nick). Are we able to look into the face of our upcoming generations and explain to them why we celebrate Santa Claus over Jesus? They may ask us, the way I’m bringing it up by writing this post, “Why didn’t you tell me about Jesus? Why did you make Santa Claus into such a big deal?” What will we say?
As a society, even to celebrate the late St. Nicholas rather than his fictitious counterpart would greatly miss the point by huge margins, simply because, as we have uncovered—he, too was inspired by Jesus; not the other way around. Would we not be more impacted by the Source of all love stories, rather than a byproduct of the main story? Ultimately, to interview St. Nick would be to have him lead us to the foot of the cross Jesus was nailed to—where St. Nick himself was inspired to turn to. Ironically, we have chosen to emulate the bystander, rather than the God the bystander so openly venerated and passionately pursued.
Holidays like Christmas—or even Easter—are meant to be reminders of Jesus; however, because not everyone celebrates holidays such as these, since not everyone believes in the sanctification of the resurrection, or the significance of Jesus’ birth—not everyone views the holidays as reminders the same way those who take their faith seriously do.
What my upbringing taught me, in hindsight, was how much I needed Jesus. Readers, if there’s anything I would hope for you to take from this story of mine, it is just that. Jesus is the Lord of my life, but He didn’t have that place until only about 7 years ago, when I finally started to try to let Him in. I talk in my posts about letting Jesus in as a choice because He won’t force Himself through the door of our hearts; that is what I’m talking about. He loves you and He loves me, and He knew that He wouldn’t break (without force that He wouldn’t use) through the mold of my view of family—a life denuded of the love of Jesus—without force, especially since my family didn’t raise me to know Jesus beyond church walls.
Something I would have wished my parents had done (if I could go back now) was to have talked with me about Jesus every day; encouraged me to pray with them, and prayed with me before bed every night. What ended up becoming of my childhood religion was that is became pantheistic; God as the universe, but not a personal being like Jesus as God in the flesh.
If you’re a Christian parent, I strongly urge you to talk openly about Christ with your children as often as possible. I didn’t receive that, and I lived atheistically for many, many years. I can tell you that it wouldn’t have been necessary if my family had known Christ more personally, and if they had revealed that to me earlier and more ubiquitously than just one hour at church on the weekend. If this is you right now, it’s okay! You can still turn things around. And I highly urge you to do so in the name of your child’s spiritual future.
My parents did not raise me around Jesus, they simply brought me to church. And not to discredit that act—they did want me to experience God—but they hadn’t genuinely experienced Him themselves. Therefore, they couldn’t share with me what they didn’t have already, and now I realize that. But that doesn’t have to be you or your family. Don’t let it be. Let Jesus be the Lord of your life and don’t wait for decades to understand His significance. Without Jesus, morality and purpose have no substance. We don’t have a reason to “be” at all without Him. To argue that is to argue the Source of our creation. Would you like to start that discussion, or would you like to know more about the life and love of Jesus Christ?
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I hope you walk away from this post and feel challenged, but also inspired to consider the purpose and meaning of Jesus Christ in your life. He changed mine, and I hope you will allow Him to do the same for you without waiting as long as I did. The best decision I’ve ever made was finding my purpose as the cross of Christ, letting His direction be the only road of my life. Let Him be yours as well.
Be blessed, readers, in Jesus name!!