Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas thoughts

I recently finished a book called “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving Like Jesus,” by Mike Slaughter. It gave me a different perspective on the holiday season, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts about it.
I’ve posted and some of you have posted and commented about the disconnect between the expectations that the holiday season is “the best time of the year” and our real feelings about this time of year.
In addition to not having a jolly attitude, I’ve had another problem with the holidays, of my own doing.
I talk about how commercial Christmas is, and how the emphasis for so many people is on spending a lot of money on gifts and expecting lots of gifts in return, and stressing out over trying to make things perfect.
I admit, thought, that I’ve been a part of that consumerism too. I spend way too much money on Christmas gifts, and I look forward too much to the gifts that I will get. And I certainly stress out over everything I supposedly have to do to get ready for the holidays.
“Christmas Is Not Your Birthday” gave me a new way of thinking about the holidays. Perhaps that is what I needed, a new way of thinking to replace my old way of thinking and acting.
Slaughter, too, talks about our focus on self and consuming during the Christmas season. He recognizes that people’s idea of an ideal Christmas is not rooted in reality.
He reminds us that the first Christmas, the night Jesus was born, was not an ideal situation either: “The real Christmas was a snapshot of poverty and anxiety, not feel-good warm fuzzies.” (p. 20)
Slaughter said in his life on earth, Jesus was focused on helping those in poverty, which did not just mean just those with a lack of money:
“Also, understand that when poverty is used in the Bible, its meaning is broader than ‘economic limitation.’ Poverty, in the deepest biblical sense, is any kind of brokenness, whether that be in a personal or cultural context, that restricts people from living in the fullness of humanity that God intends.” (p. 54)
What makes Christmas and the rest of our lives meaningful, according to Slaughter, is serving others as Jesus did.
I thought of those of us who suffer from maladies that many people don’t understand, like OCD, anxiety and depression, when I read this passage in the book:
“Likewise, God shows up and speaks to us through others who have experienced similar struggles and come out on the other side. That means your experiences of pain, and, eventually, hope can also become the seed for God’s miracle in someone else’s life.” (p. 34)
That certainly gives me comfort and hope. I hope I can carry a sense of meaning into the new year.
I hope all of you have a safe, peaceful and joyous holiday, no matter how you spend it. Merry Christmas!

*All quotations from the electronic version of the book.

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