Every year around Christmas we are told by many different voices to “remember the reason for the season.” This call for perspective is understandable. Much time and thought is spent dressing up homes with lights, trees with ornamentation, and buying gifts as a matter of consumerism rather than true charity. No wonder religious people worry why a time that should bring spiritual renewal and contemplation ends up seeming like a secular celebration.
worse still is how soon a religious holiday is advertised for sale in stores a month or more before December where Christmas lands. Some of this is a personal dislike of bypassing some holidays, like Thanksgiving, with overexposure to others. Familiarity can breed contempt the saying goes. The celebration can go on for so long that the main focus becomes blurred. It isn’t even a constant enlightening celebration, but a burst of materialism centered on fun and spectacle. Too many Christians have turned over their religion to marketing campaigns and department stores.
Those who call for remembering the reason for the season are preaching to an inattentive choir. Most people understand perfectly well that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior. Even the non-religious recognize this fact, and simply ignore it or fight against it by seeking to suppress recognition. The war on Christmas is real. Often times those who participate in the celebration are their own enemies giving in to secular practices.
To simply say remember the reason for the season is not enough. It might be better to propose some questions be asked. What is the reason(s) for the season? How can we celebrate the season with those reasons in mind and spirit? Are there activities and mindsets that get in the way of celebrating Christmas for the right reasons? Has the season personally become more secular than religious?
Lacking a memorable experience was a concern for Brother Devin Durrant, of the Sunday School general presidency, as he worried none of his children could tell him the gifts given the previous Christmas:
We weren’t too surprised when none of our children could remember the gifts they had received six months earlier. Because of that experience, Julie and I decided to try a different Christmas idea . . .
. . . we decided to ask each family member, including our new son-in-law, Bryson, to write a letter to each of their siblings and to Mom and Dad, telling them how they felt about them. These letters would be our Christmas gifts. We then decided to invite each family member to write their feelings about the gospel of Jesus Christ so they could also give each sibling and parent a Christmas “testimony gift” along with their letter.
Him and his wife were concerned when the day arrived that the children would be upset at not receiving the usual gifts and toys. what if they were seen as “Grinches” taking away part of the usual goodies given each year? It didn’t turn out that way.
December 24 arrived and we had a wonderful Christmas Eve together as a family. We read together from Luke 2 and had time to think about the Savior and His birth. Unlike other years, not much was said about Santa and his reindeer.
The next morning we enjoyed a delicious Christmas breakfast. We then gathered as a family to share our Christmas folders with each other. Everyone received their folders and began to read the letters from their brothers and sisters. Shortly thereafter the tears began to flow. A wonderful spirit of love enveloped the room. We then invited each family member to read their own testimony out loud to the group. More tears were followed by more love.
It was the only year that type of celebration was done for Christmas, but apparently the memories remained long after. There are some years that will never be forgotten, but very few have anything to do with secular reasons.
Here is where religious envy becomes strongest for a Mormon such as myself. Advent calendars are used by many families to mark the days leading up to Christmas day. Even the LDS Church magazines supply some ideas for counting down until the holiday. Traditional advent is much more than flipping open paper windows with pictures. Many Western Christian Churches, like Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and others, consider it the start of the liturgical year. There are specific religious feasts, celebrations, and readings of Scripture set aside for worship. Not only the birth of Jesus at the meridian of time is contemplated, by the anticipation of Christ’s return. There is something special about spreading the religious perspective through the whole Christmas season, and not only a Christmas Eve reading of Matthew and Luke.
No answers will be given here what should be done about the overabundance of secular activities and materialism rampant during Christmas time. Each person must decide the balance. Hopefully a repeating of the mantra “remember the reason for the season” is replaced with an honest assessment of what that means.