A number of times this year I have heard people say “I’m not feeling Christmassy but Christmas just for children really isn’t it?”. What they’re referring to is the excitement that exudes from children regarding the presents they hope to receive, the magic of Santa and the joy they show as they rip open present after present and begin playing with their new toys or latest gadget. And since, as adults, we have been through this process many times, the magic of Santa has gone and the interest wanes. Some parents, perhaps even dread Christmas, all the stress of the preparation, having to make the day perfect, making sure all the food is cooked and on time, making sure that each child feels equally but individually treated. And then there’s the pressure of making sure you see all the family that’s expected, sometimes travelling great distances, trying not to offend anyone.
It saddens me that for so many people Christmas has been reduced to a materialism and trying to “get it right”.
The “Christ” has been taken out of Christmas. Of course, I understand, if you do not believe in Christ then the term Christmas is purely a term used to describe a season when family and friends gather, eat vast quantities and presents are exchanged. Many people can have a perfectly happy day when this is all that matters. But I’m struck every year but people saying they don’t get excited, the day isn’t that great and it can all feel like an anti-climax.
Many of you know, this blog is about mental illness and I’m struck by the similarities. Mental illness can often feel a bit empty, a sense that something’s missing. When I’ve felt like this, I’m very fortunate that I’ve not had to look too far to know that Jesus is right beside, even when he’s felt far away, I’ve held onto the knowledge that he’s suffering with me, in fact, he’s suffered a great deal more (when he died on the cross for me).
Advent, for me, is all about the anticipation, the active waiting, and the building excitement to celebrate the birth of the Jesus Christ. There is still a little stress, trying to get all the right presents to the right people in time, ordering and buying food to make it extra special and planning the day so it runs smoothly but, I hold central what truly matters is Christ. For me, the midnight service is the highlight! Yes, I love being with family and friends when possible, it’s great to see children excited and exchanging gifts is fun but keeping Christ at the centre and all the other things, as important as they are, matter less.
There are people who won’t be surrounded by family or friends, they won’t have any special food and won’t give or receive any physical presents but they will be enveloped by the greatest gift anyone can receive, the knowledge and understanding that God entered the world as a human baby and later died to save us. The mystery and myth of Santa is soon put into perspective when considered against awe and wonder of Christ!
So, yes, Christmas is for children but it’s equally for adults, young and old, Christ is for everyone! As my faith and relationship with God deepens my understanding of what Christ’s birth really means is more extraordinary each year. Keep Christ at the centre of Christmas and the mystery will never be lost!