A few years ago when I was living in California, a friend invited me over to her house. “I should let you know,” Mary whispered to me after she extended the invitation, “I love Christmas music. It’s my favorite. I don’t really listen to anything else. I play it constantly. And I really like the classic, traditional renditions. I just love the melodies and the lyrics, and, I don’t know, it just makes me feel all happy and excited every time I hear it.”
I told Mary that wasn’t a problem. I didn’t mind at all if she wanted to play Christmas music while we were together.
The following afternoon, I went to Mary’s home. We shared a wonderful afternoon of stories, laughter, iced tea, cookies, and Christmas classics on a hot July day. Christmas was still five months away.
Well, I had to admit, Mary was right. Listening to Andy Williams, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Johnny Mathias singing joyous Christmas classics put me in a relaxed and happy mood. On that hot summer day, my spirit felt all jolly and joyous. I left my friend’s house later that evening with a happy heart. But isn’t that the way Christmas is supposed to be…even in July.
Christmas, however, isn’t really fun or joyous anymore. Too many people are complaining way too much about this precious holiday and ruining it for everyone. Christmas has become a debate, a battlefield, a confrontation. For example, people are fighting over the right to say Merry Christmas rather than the politically correct Happy Holidays. People who enjoy Black Friday are continually criticized for being too materialistic for Christmas. Department stores are condemned for putting out Christmas decorations even before Halloween is over. This year, even Starbucks is under attack for the lack of design on their red and white Christmas cups!
I’m sure Jesus never meant Christmas to be a time of hate and anger. I think he wanted us to be happy about the season. I think he wants us to spread joy and cheer to all people instead of arguing over petty, little, inconsequential situations.
I remember how excited I used to get when I was a child and the Christmas catalogues would arrive at the beginning of November. I remember crawling up in bed with Momma and my siblings late in the evenings. All of us were dressed in our pajamas and cuddling beneath the blankets on cold Kansas nights. Momma would slowly turn the pages of the JCPennys or Montgomery Wards catalogue as her children screamed out with glee at all of the different toys displayed on the pages. We would point excitedly to the gift we wanted and Momma would write our name on that item with her red pen. All of us would spend the rest of the evening, laughing and talking in joyous anticipation of the holidays to come.
Another tradition was to drive around the Kansas City Plaza and stare at all of the glorious Christmas lights and decorations. We would drive around for an hour before stopping at the local Dairy Queen on the way home. The night held Christmas magic and prepared us for a joyous holiday.
Even now, I love to see Christmas all around me regardless of the month and season. I love driving through neighborhoods that glitter with Christmas decorations. I smile when I see Christmas candy lining the grocery store shelves. I love going to Black Friday at midnight. I never buy anything. I go out around 11 pm, get a cup of coffee, and then head to the nearest Wal-mart. I sit and drink my coffee as I watch everyone go crazy. I love observing all of the crazy, half-assed, silly things people do and Black Friday is absolutely the championship night of people watching.
And for me, that is Christmas. It is magic. It is the silliness. It is anticipation. It is about sharing, giving, kindness, and love. It’s about laughter, excitement, joyfulness, and listening to Christmas music in the middle of the summer.
And it is all about Jesus. I think Jesus loves our happy craziness over Christmas. About a year ago, I went to Branson, Missouri, for Thanksgiving. At the Kris Kringle shop in the Grand Village outdoor mall, I found an amazing nativity scene. Crudely carved wooden figures of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and angels were gathered around the tiny baby Jesus resting in a manager. I stood there looking at the little baby Jesus and laughing hysterically. It was so cute. This wooden baby Jesus had the biggest grin on his small round face. I had never seen a nativity scene before that displayed a laughing baby Jesus. In other nativity scenes, Jesus is always so solemn, so peaceful, so silent, so calm. I loved that tiny joyful carving of our savior. Yes, Jesus sacrificed himself to save our souls. But he was also a child who laughed and played and learned and loved and grew. I could be wrong, but I think Jesus had a wonderful sense of humor, just simply because he was so in tune with the human spirit. So I think Jesus loves us best when we are silly, and joyful, and loving because he was, too. Jesus embraced life and all human spirits…and so should we.
So, here’s my point…
If you want to go out and shop on Black Friday, you go and have a great time and be kind to other people as Jesus has been kind to you! If you want Starbucks, go get yourself a red and white cup of coffee and drink it in praise of God! If you want to pick out gifts for people including yourself, enjoy it with thanks for all the blessings God has given you! If you want to listen to Christmas music in the middle of summer, listen with your whole heart and let your voice sing out in loving praise of Christ! Do everything every day without judgment, disapproval, or negativity. Don’t listen to other people’s hatefulness and sarcasm and criticism. Whenever or however you celebrate Christmas, do it with pleasure and love towards other people. Don’t let others’ criticism and hate take away your joy.
Be that voice that sings out with song and laughter. Be a child at Christmas again. Be the love and glory of Christ. Be the magic of Christmas all year round. Celebrate in January, February, July, and September because every day should be Christmas! Remember, Christ is with you every day! Celebrate!