It is impossible for me to recall any portion of my childhood when Christmas was not, for me, the most wonderful time of the year. I loved everything about it: the presents, Santa, music, the food…and sure, some church programs and the story of the baby in the manger. I wasn’t that different from most kids: I realized I was supposed to be deeply moved about the real Christmas story and that the rest was intended to be peripheral to the genuine meaning. But candidly…I wanted, more than anything, to tear into some ribbons and wrapping paper and reveal the secrets beneath!
Well into adulthood now and no longer singularly focusing on one day out of 365, Christmas still maintains a special glow for me. Family and friends are so much dearer to me today, and Christmas traditions provide ample room to celebrate with and about both. If anything, I relish food more now than ever. And I have learned to cherish Christmas music old and new with the appreciation that comes with having lived a few years in the ebb and flow of life.
But I am struck more than ever this year by the unfathomable Gift that the God I serve sent into this world on that first Christmas long ago. The baby Jesus came into a world so similar to our own in many ways: bitterly divided along political, ideological and racial lines, simmering with hate and revenge, small-minded and petty. Into a world that so desperately needed Him, Christ came, speaking love and reconciliation…and the world changed. Forever. Indeed, “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14, NIV).
I’ve already mentioned the joy that friends bring into my life…and by that measure, this year has been a delightful one. A year ago, at Christmas 2009, I knew none of the contributors to this week’s special “Twitter Personality–Christmas Edition.” In celebration of what 2010 has bestowed, I have asked a handful of Twitter Personality alumni to come back this week and share, from varying perspectives what Christmas means to them.
My thanks to five of my dear friends for participating and sharing from their hearts! Enjoy—and Merry Christmas to all!
Jon Gabriel (@ExJon) shares an anecdote that highlights the magic of Christmas through childish eyes…and how we, as adults, should tread softly on the vistas of youthful imagination:
I was a fourth grader, getting ready for Halloween. As my teacher, Mrs. Musco, was reviewing upcoming holidays, she mentioned Christmas break. A few of us mentioned what we wanted St. Nick to leave under the tree and Mrs. Musco paused. “You’re in fourth grade now. None of you still believe in Santa Claus, right?”About three children chuckled, “NO!”
But the rest of the kids, me included, looked at Mrs. Musco in horror. It was as if she just held up the still-beating heart of our vanishing childhood, while wearing an innocent grin.
Kids grow up faster today. My youngest, who is in first grade, informed us a few weeks ago that she no longer believes in Santa. The relentless skepticism of many older neighborhood kids made her face the non-magical reality far too soon. But thankfully, both our girls still light up in wonder at a Christmas tree, a light display, and even a store Santa strolling by.
Perhaps, just like me, they wanted to believe a little longer than they did. And every time they suspend their skepticism, I mutter to myself, “Take that, Mrs. Musco.”
Sarah Smith (@mamaswati) worked as an event coordinator and caterer for large parties for several years and shares the perspective of someone intimately acquainted with the culinary delights of the Christmas season:
Christmas is the culmination of everything magical about the winter season. The month of December is always bright with sprawls of Christmas decorations, the first snowfalls of the season seem the freshest, and celebrations with friends filled with food and music (and adult bevies if that’s your thing) leave a person feeling genial and appreciative. For most of my life, my family spent Christmas Eve at home with a turkey dinner, opened presents Christmas morning, then went to my grandparents’ home for a big Christmas Dinner with the entire family. The tradition was always there, but the celebration of the holiday was about so much more than what I did on December 25th. (This could just be my Jewish roots showing but I like stretching holiday celebrations out as long as possible! My birthday, for example, is celebrated over 10 days.)
For the past several years, I have spent December throwing Christmas parties 5 nights a week with weddings thrown in on the off days. December celebrations all have one thing in common that set them apart from the other months of the year. The Food. The savor and sweetness of a holiday menu overwhelm the senses, making palpable the warming energy of Christmas. You have endless options when it comes to feeding your guests on the holidays – meats filled with cheesy goodness, cakes rolled up with jellies and fudge covered everythings. Hot cocoa is a versatile and delicious beverage. Full bellies make warm hearts.
East coast winter weather comes just in time for Christmas. Snow stimulates the imagery of Christmas magic and joy. When it is about to snow, the air vibrates; you can smell the crispness of the storm and feel it in your breath. Snowstorms blanket everything in softness and make it all look fresh and bright. Moonlight on snow is an exceptional sight, but coupled with Christmas lighting, it creates a carnival for the senses. Winter temperatures seem warmer after a snow, sounds become clearer, and space becomes redefined. Atop this snow at the start of the Christmas season, lights and wreaths fill the blank spaces down every street. Your neighbors (or you.. I’m not one to judge) place inflatable figures up in their yards. Every store and restaurant plays Christmas music. Even the crunchy gift shop that sells organic goods plays a coexist-ish holiday album. Christmas is home for all of the magic of winter – the celebrations, the snow, the decoration, the music…and never forget the glorious food!
Wishing a spectacular celebration to you all!
Molly Teichman (@Mommentator) is a Missouri mother to three children and wife to a small-town attorney. She reflects here on the process of inculcating appropriate values and nurturing a reverence traditions in three kids at this rapturous season:
For me, Christmas is about establishing and maintaining memories that will last, possibly far after I’m gone. In the spirit of giving, none more sacrificial than the life of the Son of God, we begin the first of December with a small trinket each day leading to Christmas. Perhaps it’s a pencil, chocolate golden coin or a letter from Santa’s elves.
We decorate trees in each room, with sentimental ornaments. Each of us helps to unpack and remember — my ornament given by my grandmother, now passed, or perhaps the tattered Santa from Brent’s mom that hangs with but half of his beard.
God created a covenant with us, his people, binding us as family. Following Him and humbling ourselves to His shadow are a homage to the gift of His investment in us. When we make traditions to emulate that gift, we are honoring Him — the reason for the season. We are making God proud that we are caring for the gift of family and love that is allowed us, despite our errant ways.
Jenny Erikson (@JennyErikson), a prolific blogger and devoted California wife and mother of two little girls (Thing 1 and Thing 2!), ponders further the true meaning of Christmas :
Let me preface this by stating for the record that I see nothing wrong with celebrating the secular aspects of Christmas. I know many agnostics, atheists, Jews, and even Muslims that take great joy in the December holiday – decorating trees, visiting friends and family, participating in Angel Tree charities, exchanging gifts, etc. – without ever thinking twice about the baby in the manger. I don’t blame them. The joy and magic of Christmas is infectious, and as one that celebrates Halloween while ignoring the original intent of the Pagan event, I welcome all to celebrate their own versions of Christmas.
As a self-proclaimed follower of Jesus Christ, Christmas in our family is very much about HIM. We do all the fun, frivolous stuff too, but it all focuses on God’s Son. The star at the top of the tree? That symbolizes the star that led the Magi to the boy Jesus. Santa and presents? They represent the greatest gift of all – the gift of a Savior. Family gatherings always include a reading of Luke 2 (a passage I practically have memorized) and a prayer of thankfulness for another year passed and a prayer for health and happiness in the future.
Our Christmas is a celebration of joy, love, charity, and hope; all the things that we believe come perfectly from Jesus. Over 2,000 years ago, a baby was born and wrapped in swaddling clothes by his teenaged mother, and placed in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn. That baby boy would grow to become a man of such compassion and love that He would save prostitutes and tax-collectors (think Harry Reid, only worse). That man would suffer and die for our sins so we won’t have to, and be raised from death and ascend into Heaven.
People celebrate Christmas for many different reasons, but at House Erikson, it’s all about J.C.
This last portion is a bit sobering, but I was so moved by what he wrote that I reserved his remarks for the conclusion. Highly appropriate thoughts with which to close this Christmas round-up, from my friend, Ryan M___ (@alwaysonoffense):
If Christmas is about presents and a tree with lights, then I guess you could say I’ve celebrated it my entire life. However, it wasn’t until my mom became a Christian when I was 15 (I became a Christian when I was 11) that Christmas began to have meaning beyond the commercial aspects that inundate the public consciousness every year after Thanksgiving. Since then, my family has put a greater focus on God and family, and has deemphasized gift-giving, although the latter may be due, in part, to the fact that I am getting older.
This Christmas, though, will be unlike any Christmas I’ve ever experienced. For the first time in my life, I will not be spending Christmas with either my mother or father. To be sure, I’ll be sad not to be able to visit either of my parents. When I wake up this Saturday, there will be no presents to unwrap, no tree to light, and no turkey to eat. And, while this will be unique for me, I imagine that millions of people each year celebrate Christmas without family and commercial fanfare.
For me, this Christmas, more than any other, will be a tremendous time for self-reflection and thanksgiving. My father has entered his seventh decade and our relationship is better than ever. My mother battled nearly-constant health problems this year and, I believe, has overcome them. I’m grateful that she is looking forward to a wonderful 2011. My stepfather took care of my mother while shepherding a church and combating his own health issues. I have a feeling that this Christmas, even without my family, all the food, and all the gifts, will be a very special one. God has given me much to be thankful for.