What is Christmas about? If we believe the media, it is all about family. Family togetherness. Feel- good-movies perpetuate this deception. “I’ll be home for Christmas,” the ideal father says to his ideal family before going off to war, or to save an emergency situation, or…
The movie ends on Christmas day when the hero, after battling horrific odds, arrives at the front door to be greeted by his adoring idealized family.
“I’ll be home for Christmas,” sings Frank Sinatra in heart-warming tones.
But that’s the deception. Christmas is not about family. Sure, it’s a wonderful time to get together with family because the kids are on school break, parents don’t have to work and, moreover, it’s traditional.
It only works if you have an ideal family. A father, happily in love with a mother, and two or three well behaved children. No fights, no squabbles, no “Which family are we going to visit this year” discussions. A perfect family. Except there is no such thing.
It doesn’t work if you are homeless, like so many people in South Africa. It doesn’t work if your children have all grown up and moved to other countries. It doesn’t work if you have lost your life partner. It doesn’t work if you have a job that requires you to work on Christmas Day and you feel guilty because you can’t give your family the ideal Christmas that the media portrays. It doesn’t work if you are divorced or estranged from your children’s other parent. It doesn’t work unless you are a perfect person with a perfect family.
I love this song by Casting Crowns.
So what is Christmas about then? Christmas is about Christ. That’s why it’s called Christmas. It saddens me when some churches, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, don’t have a Christmas Day service. Because it is our Summer holiday season, most people go to the coast over December. That leaves the volunteer group decimated and, after all, they want to get home to their families. I understand it but it still saddens me. I wonder if it is the same in the Northern Hemisphere.
The first Christmas was not about family. I am sure Mary’s mother would have loved to be part of the welcome ceremony for her daughter’s new baby. There were no fancy hospitals in those days. Mothers and female relatives were expected to help with the birth. Mary’s family wasn’t there. Neither was Joseph’s family. The people who celebrated the first Christmas with the family were strangers:- perhaps the innkeeper and his wife, a group of shepherds and later, a group of foreigners with a different culture.
Christmas is not about gifts. It is about a gift. God’s gift to a world enslaved by its own human nature. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Is Christmas about love, then? You bet! God so loved.
Because we are loved we can share love with others and then we will be known as Children of our Heavenly Father.
May we all be givers of love this Christmas.