Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Refresh of Christmas: Down with Tradition

The past few years, I’ve hated Christmas. My family has called me the Grinch or Scrooge and someone gave me a Ba Humbug coffee mug last year. I would pretended like Christmas wasn’t happening and that it was just another day, another year.

I hate buying gifts—I always wait until the last minute and then it’s even more stressful.

I hate doing the same thing every year. And Christmas is the most traditional holiday of the world. It’s why new Christmas songs don’t make it big. People just want the same old songs, the same old sayings, the same old food. Hashtag: bored.

Why so glum on the most shimmering and exciting holiday of the year? There are a few reasons and they are as follows:

Reason #1: I’m single and every year I don’t have a boyfriend I become painfully aware that I’m contributing to the monotony. As cousins and siblings get married off, I’m lumped in with the high school and college kids. Not that I don’t LOVE the high school and college kids (a lot of times they are more fun than the grownup married people) it’s just that sometimes people forget that I’m a grownup, too. Since Christmas is such a family oriented thing, it’s hard to figure out where to place that extra limb who’s hanging solo.

Reason #2: Also since Christmas is a family holiday, if you have drama in your family, you feel it the most around Christmas. You know who isn’t talking to who, who’s mad a who, and so on.  The last three Christmases there has been drama in my family and I’m aware every “family” gathering that things are out of sorts; something isn’t quite right.

Reason #3: I already mentioned that I’m single. During Christmas most people my age are starting their new little families and beginning to create their own traditions. I’m still doing the old traditions. I’m still 13. I just want to freakin’ grow up, please.

Reason #4: Christmas is a sentimental person’s dreamboat. Memorable decorations from the year baby took her first steps and Mama cookin’ the roast the same way she does every year. Gag me.  There are so few things I’m sentimental about and for the most part sentimentality makes me want to blow chunks. Seriously.

Then came this year. I moved to Mexico right before Thanksgiving. I was delighted to not be doing the same old thing for Turkey Day. And, for some reason, as soon as December got here, I actually wanted to listen to Christmas music. I got excited when I saw Christmas decorations in people’s windows and heard Christmas music in the grocery store. I’m not dry heaving at the sound of Frank Sinatra, even though I think his voice is overrated. I’m baking this year. Christmas shopping wasn’t as stressful and I actually did Christmas cards for the first time ever.

I ordered a mini Christmas tree and it didn’t make it to Mexico. I cried when it didn’t come. I just wanted something to remind me of traditional Christmas. So I made Christmas cookies that’re my family’s specialty and it genuinely made me feel better. I also was sad to miss the Christmas Eve service at my church. It’s one tradition that I love.

But then I was happy that I was sad. It meant those little things actually did mean something to me. It means that change happens and some parts of that change are painful. We feel change the most around the holidays, just like we feel singleness, family discord, and loss. We feel those things the most because of tradition, because we look forward to the same things every year.

I started thinking about what role tradition played in the Christmas story. I’ll admit that even Jesus’s birth had gotten boring. There are only so many sermons a pastor can pull out of his hat for the Christmas story. You hear the tale so many times that you start to wonder if you actually believe it. You think, “Oh that’s sweet” and it takes effort to realize it was anything but sweet.

So this year, between sermons in Spanish, lack of the Hallmark Channel and the plethora of Christmas concerts that occur in my home city, I felt myself dried out from the Christmas story. Like maybe I’d been in Christmas rehab. I realized not having Baby Jesus shoved in my face actually made me miss Him.

So this morning I got simple and read the Christmas story out of the Jesus Story Book Bible.
I cried at the words:
The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around, the God who made the universe with just a word, the one who could do anything at all—was making himself small. And coming down…as a baby.
And the words:
You see, God was a like a new daddy—he couldn’t keep the good news to himself. He’d been waiting all these long years for this moment, and now he wanted to tell everyone.

And suddenly Christmas was real again. That sounds cheesy but a lot of things about Christmas are cheesy—check out Santa Clause.  

It’s good to get away from tradition for a little while. It makes you realize which traditions you really value. It makes the important things real and puts the unimportant things in the right place. Mixing things up helps you realize that some change is good, even necessary. Being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely and you can still love and enjoy your family from a distance. 

 And Jesus birth is still Jesus birth no matter what country. No matter what language. That’s one story that will never change.
Gather 'round, ye children, come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow'r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man

Gather 'round, remember now
How creation held its breath
How it let out a sigh
And it filled up the sky with the angels
Son of God, Son of Man

(Gather round ye Children come, Andrew Peterson, Behold the Lamb of God)

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