I am not a big fan of the Christmas season. If you have read my blog for a while or know me personally, you probably already know this. I love Jesus, and I love birthdays; so Jesus' birthday is simply the brightest day of the year for me. However for years, I've struggled with the true reason for Christmas being lost somewhere in all the hustle and bustle. I am self admittedly overwhelmed by busyness. There are so many wonderfully good things to do this time of year, and it can be so hard to say no....especially when you live smack dab in the middle of "The Christmas Capital of Texas". But over the years, saying no has been the best thing we've done, in many aspects of life, but especially during Advent. If I'm completely honest, I must admit that I've never been that into Christmas...even as a child. I was terrified of Santa, and the thought of him coming into the house was more terrifying than exciting. I never jumped up on Christmas morning to rush in and see what Santa left under the tree. I always waited cautiously for my parents to come lead me into the living room, because I didn't want to accidentally run into SC. The overall expectations during the holiday season were always stressful for me, and the focus was always on doing and going. In my childhood home, we really didn't talk about Jesus being the reason for the season. My parents were CEO church goers aka Christmas and Easter only, but we rarely did we ever go on Christmas. I guess that makes them EO church goers. In total contrast to my lack luster feelings surrounding Christmas, my mama loved Christmas. She loved everything about it: the gift giving, the decorating, the tree was probably her favorite (it always had to be flocked); and of course Santa. We went to visit Santa every year as long as I can remember, although I really didn't have any desire to do so. I actually stopped believing in Santa in about 2nd grade, and I was honestly relieved. When I was a teen, my dad, who was not as into Christmas as my mama, but was sort of a long for the ride; told me a story about a childhood memory of his at Christmas. He was the second youngest of 8 in a very poor family, and his mama had died when he was 23; and I was one. I never knew her. One Christmas when he was a little boy and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa, his parents gathered their children on Christmas morning to tell them that Santa wasn't able to come; because he just couldn't see their little tiny house. It was just too dark, and he just flew right over it. My dad was very matter of fact when he told me that story, but I could see the impact that particular Christmas had had on him. He never told me any other stories about Christmas from his childhood. Although the disappointment of not having a gift from Santa may have passed, I think it was eventually replaced with the realization that his parents just didn't have the money to buy their children anything for Christmas. That story has always resonated deeply within my heart and soul, and I'll never forget the look in his eyes when he told it. Years later when I was a new young mother with a few small children, I vividly remember a conversation I had with my mama. We were discussing the holidays and the things we were committed to, things she and my dad were committed to, and things we were planning to do together. I had been very intentional on trying to keep things minimal as I was already self admittedly overwhelmed by busyness and now had added children to the mix. Honestly my kids didn't need another thing to do or play with either. As I was listing the few things we were planning to enjoy as a family, one of them was church on Christmas Eve. I remember her saying, "You spend too much time at church. When are we going to open gifts? Have you taken the kids to see Santa?" After a few attempts in years prior, which resulted in terrified children in tears, I really didn't have a visit to Santa in my plans. I had sort of figured if we were out and about and saw Santa somewhere, maybe we would attempt to sit in his lap again. If it worked out great, if it didn't; oh well. But when she asked me about Santa, I remember thinking...hmmmm...I guess I should ask them if they want to go see Santa instead of assuming they don't. I simply replied with, "No we haven't made it to see Santa. I'm not sure if we will try it this year or not". As we hung up the phone, her words lingered in my mind for days. Did we spend too much time at church? Is there such a thing as too much time at church? I was working in the nursery then and also at the preschool, so we did spend a lot of time at church. For the next week or so, I watched my children every time we went to church to see if they seemed like they had "too much church". Lo and behold, they didn't. They actually seemed very happy at church. I asked them if they wanted to go see Santa, lo and behold they didn't....not even a little bit.
I have thought back on my childhood a lot in recent years, and oddly I did love many things about Christmas. As a child, my favorite part of Christmas was the time we spent at my grandparents' farm in west Texas. We didn't go every year, but we did go often. I was an only child and both of my parents' families lived in the same small town in west Texas. My mamaw was the one who taught me about Jesus and about why we celebrate Christmas. Maybe it was her simple and gentle demeanor, or maybe it was her lovingly confident way she always spoke; but I loved listening to her talk about her faith. It was something that I longed for as a little girl....that joy, that confidence, that kind of relationship. My mamaw and papaw had a tiny table top Christmas tree every year. It was silver with a few decorations on it, and it was one of my favorite things in the whole world. It was simple and gentle like she was. Doing Christmas up big is amazing, and I have done it up big many times. I admire those who decorate to the max. I think it's beautiful, and my eyes thank you for it. But for me at this stage in life, it's something I said no to a long time ago. Someday we may deck the halls to the max once again, but for now; this is how we roll. I donated most of my decorations a few years ago, and I let my children utilize what we have left if they choose to. We have a simply decorated tree, our stockings; and we hang up our Christmas cards. Anything extra is up to them.
As for my mama, she was raised a christian; and she believed in the birth of Jesus. Due to some other circumstances in her life, she didn't regularly attend church for most of her adultlife; but she was always a believer. My mama was a wonderfully generous soul. She loved giving and serving and did so with such joy, and she loved her family. Deep down inside she knew faith and works go hand in hand. As my family grew, and my children grew; she saw how important our church family was to us and them. As a result, she grew deeply in her faith and restored her relationship with Jesus. Later in life, she always looked forward to attending Christmas Eve church service with us when her health allowed.
My grandmother's faith was instrumental in influencing my own faith. Her utmost love for Jesus and the joy that lived inside her because of Him was definitely one of the reasons I wanted my children to love going to church. I know many christians who don't attend church, who are strong in their relationship with the Lord; and I know that attending church doesn't define someone as a person of faith. For me, it was the best place to start to learn and grow in my own relationship. Isn't it wonderful how God works...my mother's mother was my biggest spiritual influence as a child, which in turn guided me to want my children to grow spiritually, and all circled around when my children's spiritual growth had such an impact on my own mother. God is always working. He is always bringing something good out of every circumstance. We still spend a lot of time at church during Advent, and there are so many things I love about Advent. We also spend a lot of time at church throughout the rest of the year, because really, when you think about it....Jesus is the reason for the season....all 4 of them!