Choosing Christmas

Recently I overheard a mother at school saying, “This year I’m not giving in to a frantic and busy Christmas. I’m going to relax and put my feet up!” This is something many of us have probably said at one time or another but it was unique because I live in South Africa. I smiled and thought to myself, “Your ‘busy’ is an American’s ‘relaxed’”.

Seriously, as an American spending Christmas in South Africa, I love the relaxed and family feel of the Christmas season here.

We are in the Southern Hemisphere where it is summer. So, our Christmas traditions involve camping, hiking, picking Strawberries and a whole lot of swimming. Our Christmas vacation photos look something more like this than Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”:

 

Christmas_swim

 

Christmas_Braai

But really, we can all have a relaxed and relationship orientated Christmas no matter what hemisphere we live in. We have to choose it yet we don’t. In the news, on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else I see a repeated theme; a desire to rid ourselves of a consumer based and frantic Christmas.

Here are some thoughts to consider as you head in to Christmas season wherever you find yourself:

Complaint:

“Christmas is just so busy”

Christmas comes with expectations for the food, parties, gift buying, making memories, taking pictures, traveling far and wide… the list goes on. The reality: this is self-driven. There is no secret Christmas monster that is making you do this under threat of bodily dismemberment. We will be driven by the expectations that we deem important and give power to. Busy-ness is a choice. I choose to be busy, no one makes me be busy.

Someone once said,

“…the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection.”

Our choice to be frantic and busy in front of God, our children and the whole world to see only reveals our own betrayal of what is truly valuable.

Complaint:

“Family dynamics are so complicated”

Yes, this is true. There are in-laws and out-laws and everything in between. Christmas comes with expectations and that’s what makes normal family relationships suddenly a lot more dramatic and complicated this time of year.

Here is a deeper truth. What really makes it more complicated and dramatic for us is our own participation in the drama. We can’t make all the drama go away but we can choose to not engage. It seems, though, that we see ourselves as victims of the drama instead of adults with the power of choice.

A few years back a friend asked me, “How can I make Christmas day work? I have to get my family to 4 parties that day… any ideas?”. I did happen to have an idea: “Choose 1 or 2 and skip the rest!”. “But people will be so upset with us!”, she replied.

Well, that is only a drama if you choose to engage with it… if you don’t, you will have a lovely day!

Complaint:

“Christmas has been taken over by consumerism”

It is a marvel to me that everyone complains about this but yet doesn’t do anything about it in their own home. Authors make a lot of money writing about how they “took back Christmas”. This is amazing! It is so astounding to us that people would choose to buy less gifts that we will read a whole book about it like we are reading about an alien invasion.

Yes, our children spend more time writing Christmas lists than learning about the greatest gift. Is this their doing or ours?

If we truly believe that we are not defined by the things we own then it will not be an issue to own less. If we truly believe that our children will find their deepest joy in Jesus, as opposed to the latest toy, on Christmas morning then it will provide no anxiety what-so-ever to choose to buy less gifts at Christmas. The problem, I think, is what we truly believe is not what we profess we believe.

This Christmas, choose to make it a great one. One free of busy-ness, drama and consumerism.

I really do believe it is the most wonderful time of the year… so from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

  • Belinda Chaplin

    Thanks for the great thoughts on Christmas. I am doing some fun things with friends as I am away from family. Hope you have a wonderful time too!

    I wanted to write to say that you use the same campsite at Algeria that my family has been using for over 25 years for our Easter camping trip 🙂 We go with friends and usually book out the 4 sites that are along there and have our own private spot… I haven’t been since 2003, but my mom and sister (and her family) go every year still. Looks like you had a great time there!

    • lindsey

      That is so cool Belinda! I think that is a big reason why we love going to Algeria, it is one of those places that has such beauty and history. Everyone we meet there has been going for years! One man had been there at Christmas for 43 years in a row! We have already booked our sites for next Christmas… such a special place. It’s nice to know you have a history there too!