As I write this post I am listening to some of my favorite Christmas music, trying to get in the Christmas mood. But as you might expect or may experience yourself, I seem to have more trouble every year getting into the spirit of Christmas. I love Christmastime as I hope my readers do, but I am not sure exactly why it seems to take me so long now to "get into" the mood. However, I will blame others instead of examining myself. It might not help me get into the spirit of Christmas, but I will feel better anyway. (I trust that my readers will realize that I am being only half-serious though I do have some complaints about this time of year.)
COMPLAINT #1 - This complaint is several years old, but it is still happening. Stores that make millions of dollars off of the birth of the Son of God every year do not seem to want to acknowledge the reason for the season. Instead, it is only "Happy Holidays" and "Season Greetings". We have always had that, of course, but you also saw signs saying "Merry Christmas" as well. Is it really too much to ask stores to give some faint genuflection to the One who came to earth to redeem us?
COMPLAINT #2 - What else is wrong is radio stations that are supposedly playing only Christmas music but seem to go way out of their way to play only the secular songs. Do they really think that people who listen to Christmas music would be "offended" or something if all kinds of Christmas music was played?
COMPLAINT #3 - This complaint is directed toward some in the church, a small minority perhaps, who want to make Christmas an almost completely religious holiday. I know that I might seem a bit blasphemous here, but let me explain. First, I want to emphasize the fact that we, as Christians, should focus on worshiping Jesus and His Father during this joyous season. Perhaps we have neglected Him too much with all the busyness, gift-giving, cookie-eating, and all that.
But I must disagree with at least one blogger who wants us to de-emphasize the family part of Christmas so that those without families, with broken families and those who may be alienated from family might feel better. He says to pretty much stick to worshiping the Lord during this season. Poppycock! We can, and should, do both. We should put God first (as always), but we should celebrate with our families as well, if we can. It is hard to believe that if we ignore family and just worship Jesus that these folks will feel better. They will not. It would be better to reach out to such people and include them in our celebration if possible. For us to give up our family celebration is not a solution to those who have little family connection. In fact, Christmas is a time when families who live far apart can reconnect in various ways.
Those without family will still have the same need. To me, doing away with the family part of Christmas to "help" those with no family connection is like the solution for the hungry that I have run across in churches from time to time. We are told to fast so that we will know how the hungry feel. Hogwash. The hungry are only helped if we actually feed them. They will not feel better if we are in sympathy with them. They will not feel better if we do not eat. They will feel better if they do.
COMPLAINT #4 - I promise that this is the last one. But it is the reason that I wrote this whole thing. Someone wrote an article in Christianity Today that bothered me not a little. She lost a son over a year ago and last year many who sent her Christmas cards did not mention this tragedy or offer sympathy. She is quite angry about this. She says that she was hurt that so many did not mention her loss. Instead, many sent their usual card with ordinary Christmas wishes or letters telling her about their own families during the past year. She apparently wanted every card to express sympathy because the sender should know that Christmas would be very hard for her. She then proceeded to instruct us on how we should all respond to such a situation.
I do not intend to be critical or harsh to someone grieving such a great loss. We must treat these dear souls with gentleness, kindness and compassion. I must say, however, that no matter how hurt she feels that she is being quite unfair. People often do not know how to respond to those who have lost a child or suffered a similar tragedy. (Is there a similar one? There may be no greater grief.) Besides, not everyone wants the same response. I know one dear friend who lost a son many years ago and never wants to talk about it. She will cut you off if you ask her about him. I know another woman who lost a son, but does want to talk about him. How are the rest of us to know what we should do, or not do? This latter woman graciously got up in church a few months after she lost her son and told the congregation to please talk about her son to her. She said she was not hurt by that. That is gracious! She let others know what they should do. You know, when we lived in a more formal society, these kinds of things were laid out for us. Everyone knew what to do. Today we are "liberated" from these strict rules. In some ways it is a disadvantage. People no longer know how to respond to others. So maybe we ought to gently suggest to others how they should respond.
It certainly is a good idea sometimes when we put a little kind note in a Christmas card expressing sympathy. I did it just last year. My cousin lost her husband early in the year but I did not hear about it until right before Christmas so I had not sent a sympathy card, much less attend the funeral. But if I had sent a sympathy card months earlier, I would have not put a note in the Christmas card. (Maybe I'm a dolt.)
I know that there are many who are grieving this time of year because of loss. But I wish to remind you that nobody is trying to be mean to you or uncompassionate. Let's believe the best of each other and assume that others mean well. Christmas ought to be a time when we treat each other graciously. Those who know someone who has lost a loved one might look for a good way to express it. Those who have suffered loss ought to be understanding toward those who do not know how or when to express their sympathy. Let's just all assume that nobody (except certain stores and radio stations) want to spoil your Christmas.
[By the way, I have been listening to the Riga Boys Choir singing some beautiful Christmas songs that you just do not hear much anymore.]