This year I felt rather grinchy. Matt was no better, which is unusual, since he LOVES Christmas. We put up a tree and some decorations, but I didn't make the massive amounts of cookies and treats that I usually do because I didn't really have anyone I wanted to give them to. And there was the root of it.
I love Christmas because I love the excuse to spend extra time with friends and family. I love the parties. I love the having people over for dinner and making treats for those I care about. I love being part of a church family who strives to shower those in the community with love. But this year, we didn't really have that. Yes, we have friends in Jersey. My kids were part of plenty of Christmas festivities, parties and celebrations. But the soul of Christmas just wasn't there. The really close friends who have known my children from birth, the aunts and uncles, grandparents of several generations and the cousins we all absent.
At this point some might be ready to mount the soap box about the "real" reason for Christmas. I have strong memories about that in my childhood. Christmas was a season of guilt. Every time I got excited about the presents and the parties, the pretty dresses and decor, I was reminded that none of that mattered, it was all about Jesus. This was traditional sledge hammer Christianity, never miss the opportunity to wallop someone with "truth" and "God" while smacking all the happy out of them. On a side note, I think this is why I have always loved Thanksgiving, all the family and treats and none of the guilt for not feeling and thinking the "right" things. After all, only the pious actually understand Christmas. Those little children who feel nothing but joy are just missing the point, being worldly. Sigh. We will have to pray for them.
And here I am faced with yet another parenting delema. We have chosen to forgo, AWANA clubs aside, the traditional Christian rhetoric with our children. Our goal is not to raise well churched kids or Evangelicals who sign on the republican party line. But while tossing out this bathwater, it seems so easy to send the baby flying. I don't ever want my kids to think they are Christians because of our Sunday activities. I don't want them sorting out the world into the "us and them" and thinking that we are the ones who have it all together. I want to take the sledge hammer away and replace it with the humility of love and gospel of truth. I want the good, hard conversations to happen naturally from doing life with my kids, not as a set apart "family bible time" or anything contrived, but something that flows from who we are.
As Christmas came around, we didn't have the whole church thing to fall back on. I would love to be able to say that teaching my children truth is the Sunday school programs job. But I don't buy it. How do we raise up children who respond to truth out of senscerity of heart, not out of guilt or habit of behavior? I want my children to celebrate Jesus' birthday like they do everyone elses who they love. I want them to be happy about the cake, the presents, the festivities. I want them to believe in Santa, because if there was one dude out there who really nailed the idea of love and celebrating a birthday of a king, he was the one! I want Christmas to be joyful without being an excuse to sneak in extra bible lessons just to keep my kids pious. And I don't know how to do it.
This year I wasn't at my best. Sure, we played with our nativity, read the Christmas story and had (coffee) birthday cake for Jesus. My girls know why we celebrate. But they also know about why the Jews celebrate. So maybe this is a blog post about Christmas after all. But it is also about living authentically, parenting, failure, and grace. Grace, which I am constantly seeking with wisdom, prayers that my children will turn out ok in spite of me.