02 December 2006

Can A Christian Lady Celebrate Christmas? and more...

When I was young, in the 70's, the Catholics put up nativity scenes, the protestants tried to be discreet by blending the world and the nativity but not garishly so as to not look Catholic, and most of the conservative people I knew did very little, so as not to appear "of the world". We had a small tree and a front door decoration (my Grandmother made "wreaths" out of woven palm fronds, spray painted gold or silver and hung with colored glass balls). We didn't talk much about "Christmas", because we didn't esteem the day higher than any other, except as a day of gift giving and family tradition, I suppose. My Dad's Dad and his wife would come over for their once a year visit and bring raw oysters. We would visit my Dad's Mom in the afternoon in her little trailer and eat old fashioned candy and open more gifts. If we were lucky, my Mom's sister and family would come down from Indiana or Chicago or Tallahassee and we'd have a big dinner at my Mom's parents' house. They always had a tree, and my Grandmother always put that fake sprayed on snow in the big picture window along with a huge cutout santa claus. My Mom even emphasized the santa tradition, I think in opposition to the Christ stories, because every year we got the "Christ wasn't probably born in December" and "the wise men were probably not three, nor there at the birth" sermons. Even, and especially on December 25th, we were supposed to be different from the world, so I thought.

As I grew older I found that more and more Christians fully participated in Christmas, and as they got cheaper, Christmas decorations were used more and more. Young people's groups always had a Christmas party, and sometimes sang carols too. I used to think that a Christian couldn't go see a school nativity play, because that would be encouraging error, but as I grew older I saw more and more Christians participating in and attending local denominational or other singing shows which included the religious stories, or theatrical events about Christ's birth. I went too. I started listening to "Christian rock" in high school, and though I stopped listening myself, for personal reasons, I found more and more Christians I knew listening to Christian pop, country or bluegrass. I never knew any growing up, because the music, like Christmas, was just a way to be like the world while sticking Christian words on things. Or so I thought.

When we had children, I decided not to perpetuate the santa claus myth, and told them the simple story of a man called Nicolas, who loved God and tried his best to do good for others, and over the years people have tried to be like him or pretended to be him still, and give the credit to him for the gifts they give, so that they can be humble in what they do. I tell them this story on their level, of course. And we all know that "Daddy is our santa!" as my daughter proudly told friends and family for a few years when she was a little younger. I decorate for "winter time" - with snow flakes and snow men, and lots of colored lights (you really do need all the lights up here in the land of darkness, where not only does the sun set way too early, but it hasn't come out from behind the clouds for weeks!). And I know that there are still some who might not approve of my "blending in with the world" this far. So I'm still caught in a quandry, because I want to let my light shine for Christ and I'll have to be different from the world's watered down understanding of his birth this time of year - but, for example, I really do like to hear all the versions of "O Holy Night" that I can - it's uplifting, and can't we listen to this all year long? I really enjoy listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's hard rocking versions of the Christmas carols and their own Christmas stories, because there's so much energy and hope in them. I come away smiling and wishing for that world that seems to be real at Christmas time that we all wish would last all year long - a world full of kindness, selflessness and joy and childlikeness. Not only that, but I like watching the animated Moses and Joseph musicals that were made a few years ago. There's something about music and drama that brings me, and other people I know, closer to the realities, even if the productions aren't complete, or are altered from the original scriptures. And I get encouraged watching "The Jesus Movie" too.

So can I participate in the world's traditions or practices because even though they've watered the truth down, I know and can appreciate the real Truth through the weak pictures they paint, and I can even be encouraged by it? Or does that make me look like I approve of their simplifying of the Gospel story? And does it matter what anyone else thinks, in the long run, if I keep a day or a feast unto the Lord or not? It has been said that some will strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, and I really do wonder sometimes which one I'm eating - what weak taste buds!

photo from : http://www.logicmgmt.com/1876/xmas/xmasintro.htm
photo from : http://www.jolahusid.com/engl/historic.htm
photo from : http://catholicshoponline.com
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