Sunday, December 21, 2008
I was making plans with a friend last week via email, setting up a sledding date for us and our kids. As we coordinated our schedules, I wrote to her that we couldn't hang out on Saturday because my sister and brother-in-law would be in town and we were doing Christmas with my side of the family.
Doing Christmas. Hmm.
Saturday came, and Jon, the boys, and I trekked down the snow-crusted hill to my parents' house. The whole family was there (except sweet Asher in the hospital) and we spent the entire day together. My mom cooked two delicious meals with all the Christmas trimmings - Spode china, sterling silver, evergreen centerpieces, glittering candles, and a roaring fire in the fireplace. We had drawn names for a gift exchange, with everyone giving either books or board games to each other. Once the gifts were open the house was full of chatter and laughter as we played board games and watched the little boys delight in their new toys. It was a lovely, lovely day. But it had nothing to do with Christmas.
Besides some heartfelt prayers from my dad before our meals, we said nothing about the Bethlehem miracle that changed the world forever. We left the Bible on the shelf, the words of Luke 2 quiet inside the leather bindings. Our conversation covered politics, science, and even theology, but we never mentioned the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us. We didn't do Christmas.
I love my family to bits and pieces. Spending time with them is truly a gift from God. But being with family is not, in itself, Christmas. I love my mom's cooking and her incredible Christmas decorations - brightly lit trees and signs of the season in every nook and cranny. But evergreen trees and nutcrackers are not Christmas. Christ is Christmas. Period. Without him this whole business of Christmas is little more than a sham - something to give us warm fuzzies and perhaps help the economy.
I had a great day on Saturday, I think we all did. But we missed something, or more accurately, we missed the something, the only thing. I hold as much responsibility for this as anyone else, and I'm ashamed. Thankfully it is only December 21st. It is still Advent. Christmas is coming and this time I'll be ready.