Perhaps you are not among those like Ebenezer Scrooge who believes everyone who utters the words "Merry Christmas" should have a stake of holly through his heart. Or maybe you could just do with a bit less hype, less noise and more simple traditions and less fuss.
As the story begins, Scrooge doesn't care much for Christmas. To the miserly businessman, Christmas is "a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer."
For Scrooge, there is no justification for the holiday. It's all "humbug." And many sincere people, Christians included, feel the same way. Why? The reasons are as varied as the number of Christmas specials on TV. Everything from its pagan links to the solstice festival, to the idolization of the mythical Santa Claus who brings children unhealthful sweets and useless toys, to the materialism that often overshadows any spiritual significance - all these and more are reasons given by some to say "humbug" to Christmas.
But is a Scrooge-like rejection of the holiday the only valid option? Admittedly, it's pleasant to receive a gift from those we love. It's an assurance that we are not forgotten, and it can bind us a little closer to them. It's OK to share these tokens of our love, provided we don't forget the Christ of Christmas in the process.
Here are a few ideas for KISS: "Keep it simple, sweetie":
1. Find new ways to tell the Christmas story. Something we started when the children were very small was to have a birthday party for Jesus. It is our way of centering around the true meaning of Christmas. We would have a cake, light candles and sing happy birthday.
2. Create family traditions. Whether you are in a single-parent home or traditional two-parent home, it is important to implement traditions for your family. Traditions instill stability and a sense of togetherness. It might mean piling into your van to tour the Christmas lights around town; reading aloud the Christmas story, or just dragging everyone to a Christmas-tree farm to choose just the "right" tree that's not too tall, too short, too fat or skinny - these are traditions that cement the family together and fill our mental albums with happy memories that will last a lifetime.
3. Bless someone else. To prevent the holiday from becoming an indulgent celebration of self-gratification, it's important to give something of yourself to others. How about before heading out to see the lights, your family makes several calls on neighbors shut in from Christmas festivities by age or illness. You could sing carols to them, deliver small gifts and pray with them.
4. Encourage generosity. Children love receiving gifts. (Do you know any who don't?) An idea to make sure everyone is equally blessed, is by organizing a name-drawing. Each family member writes his or her name on a piece of paper, along with a short list of wishes. Then everyone draws a name.
Be inspired by a Christmas story titled "The Last Straw." You can also encourage doing anonymous acts of kindness for each other during the holiday season.
When someone discovers their chores are already done, their bed made or their lunch packed, it encourages generosity.
5. Worship the king. Every family can decide how to implement this. Some choose to sing around a piano. Others choose to attend candlelight services at their place of worship. You decide what's best for your family to center this Christmas around the reason for Christmas: Jesus Christ.
Old Scrooge finally gets it by the end of the Dickens tale. His heart opens at last to the gifts of joy, generosity and goodwill that the season offers to everyone willing to receive them. Will you? You don't have to reject Christmas because of the commercialism. Instead, keep your eye on Jesus. Once a year the world acknowledges the greatest gift ever given to humanity. Can we not do the same?
It's not the mistletoe, but rather the blessings we give to others. It's not the tinsel, but the traditions that made us a family. Christmas sales come and go, but the Christmas story never goes out of style. And it is our worship of the babe in Bethlehem that removes the "humbug" from the holiday. Enjoy the season, and "God bless us, every one!" Merry Christmas!
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA is a home school mom and a counselor with Cornerstone Christian Counseling in Elkins. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 304-637-7018.)