Have you ever wondered what the "Christmas mood" is? People ask, "Are you in the "Christmas mood" yet?" I find myself wondering this year...what exactly is that?
Thanksgiving is well defined...it's about expressing gratitude for our blessings. But the pragmatic purpose of Christmas has become confusing over the years.
Of course, it's a religious holiday for Christians. At least, I think it is. Some churches are closing on Christmas Sunday this year because...well, it interferes with opening presents and eating a delicious holiday breakfast. For those pastors and parishoners, the message of their actions is that Christmas is first a holiday of private and personal pleasures, and then a religious occasion.
This is not a facetious question. I find myself genuinely puzzled this year. Our youngest is in high school, and neither wants nor needs much. It's a challenge for her to formulate a decently long "gift list."
Our other three children are adults, two are married, and one has a sweet baby daughter. This year, our home is no longer the center of celebration for the first time. We're traveling to Oregon to join our oldest daughter and her husband in thier new home. And it will be lovely and fun.
But I find myself asking.....
-- Has Christmas faded in the US as a solemn and sacred religious celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace?
-- Is the "Christmas mood" mainly about the look of pure joy on young childrens' faces when they open gifts?
-- Is the "Christmas mood" about the excitement of shopping and wrapping gifts to please our loved ones? (But what if they already have plenty? What if they need nothing?)
-- Is the "Christmas mood" about decorating the prettiest tree ever and listening to dreamy Christmas music?-- Is the "Christmas mood" about the anticipatory activities....stringing lights on the house, attending festive parties with friends, driving around at night to admire Christmas displays, attending elaborate Christmas programs?
-- Is the "Christmas mood" about faithfully reading an advent calendar?
--Is the "Christmas mood" about attending our community's annual Christmas Tamale Street Festival in "old town" with 10,000 other merrymakers......savoring Mexican tamales and listening to a band belt out Beatles and Rolling Stones oldies while the kids wait for Santa to arrive?
Six years ago, a family we knew from church pooled their Christmas present funds, packed up their two teenagers and flew to London for a week at Christmas time. I admit.....a week in wintry London sounds delightful. But is that what Christmas is about?
Andrea told me that the family of a high school friend spent Christmas last year in Hawaii. They exchanged token gifts, but mainly spent Christmas sunning on the beach and eating at wonderful, exotic restaurants. I truly love Hawaii.....but at Christmas?
I'm decidedly not a strict traditionalist, but I feel vague guilt at the idea of spending Christmas taking in British theater in London or enjoying a balmy brunch on the patio of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
I guess we won't be attending church while visiting family in Oregon.....but that doesn't feel quite right. Something is missing. Judging by our culture these days, I must be the only person feeling loss.
I can hardly wait to see our daughter and son-in-law. Festive family meals will be magic. It will be heartwarming to gift our children with things that bring smiles to their faces.
Please don't misinterpret my words....I am quite happy. This is a warm, fun time of year.But is that all there is to Christmas? Is it only about being warm, fun and happy? Or is that enough? I must be missing something this year.
It feels like the meaning should be deeper. And more reverent.
UPDATE: I figured out what's missing.......Holiness. Sacred holiness, both in community and personal celebrations of this season.
My soul longs for more sacred holiness, less tinsel and cookies, parties and holiday bling. More Jesus.