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Monday, December 27, 2010

Confessions of a Christmas Lover

Guest Essay by Kathy Gray

I confess. I love Christmas—all of Christmas. I love decorating trees and fireplaces; I love twinkly lights and baking Christmas cookies. I love silly Christmas movies with silly stories. And yes, I love gifts. I LOVE gifts—unapologetically.

I love finding the perfect gifts and the excitement of giving them. I love the thrill of a gift-heaped tree and the anticipation of all the surprises. I love opening presents all morning and enjoying them all afternoon. And...

I think God enjoys it too. I think he's a Father in heaven that finds pleasure in joyful, excited kids, just like we do. And I believe we glorify him more in our overflowing joy, than our dour admonitions to "have the right focus."

What exactly is "the right focus" anyway? I'm curious. If someone went to a remote part of the world today and discovered a pagan holiday, imbibed it with religious significance, then declared that March 14th was the day we were all to observe this—would we be obligated? Would God expect us to focus extra hard on that specific truth because some Christian somewhere decided this was a good idea? God gave numerous celebrations in Scripture, loaded with spiritual significance, which we routinely ignore. But the revised pagan celebration from ancient England, which is nowhere to be found in the Bible—we endlessly admonish ourselves for neglecting. How ironic.

I love thinking about the incarnation. It is an awesome and stunning reality that deserves to be renewed regularly in our hearts. But I feel no more obligation to do so in December than I do in July. There is nothing Biblically binding about our Christmas celebration beyond the principles that apply to every day of our lives such as goodness, faithfulness, generosity, gratitude, contentment, peace, joy, patience, and kindness.

I'm not sure what it says about us when the pagans exhibit more joy in their holiday celebrations than we do. I think we should be the merriest people on earth, exhibiting such contagious joy that everyone around us is asking why we enjoy life so much. If I were an unbeliever, I would certainly NOT want to be a Christian during Christmas...with the incessant guilt-laden admonitions, dour expressions, and weary sighs. Nothing about this is attractive.

So no, I don't feel guilty in the least during the holiday season for not focusing enough on Jesus' birth. I feel the same freedom I feel every day of the week to focus on Christ in a whole array of ways. And yes, I love Christmas. I choose to focus on Christ by observing that he gave the most amazing gift to those he loved when he came to earth. Consequently, I want to have a generous heart towards those I love as well. I want to reflect his goodness by rejoicing in the fact that every good and perfect gift is from the Father above, and he gives these good gifts for our enjoyment. I want to honor him with exceeding joy and gratitude in the midst of all these good gifts. And if any unbelievers are watching, I want my joy and celebration to be irresistible.

Meet Kathy Gray. . .

Kathy Gray is our daughter, a home-school mom, a teacher par excellance, and, as you can see, an excellent writer—and a lover of Christmas. She, and our daughter Twyla, get their writing ability from me (and my mother) and their love of Christmas from their mother, my wife, Carol. (I actually enjoy it almost as much, but only because of how well Carol and the girls pull it off. They all three love to give gifts that fit and bring happiness to the people they love, and like Kathy, I think that’s a virtue to praise God for, not a behavior to be ashamed of.

Thanks Kathy, for a beautiful essay and a wonderful statement of faith. I love you!

I'm Rick Blumenberg . . .and that's My View from Tanner Creek.

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