Deconstructing the Holidays

Deconstructing the Holidays December 22, 2023

Deconstructing the Holidays

Deconstructing the Holidays

Sometime during this Christmas season, I commented on a post from one of my old friends who is a pastor when he was bragging about his Christmas production. When I first knew him, his church in a different city, produced what could only be described as a Broadway production at Christmas time. It was complete with live animals and a triumphant procession through the sanctuary to a song that had little to do with Christmas. It was an emotional experience that ended in an alter call.

I commented, “The show must go on.”

My friend is a talented speaker who preached revivals in our small churches in the early days of our ministry. I would counsel people after the alter call, who many times didn’t even know why they walked down the aisle. He is not a bad person. He is just a good salesman.

I guess fundamentally I don’t have a problem if the members of those churches want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars and hundreds and hundreds of hours creating these productions. But what I want them to do is be honest. They’re not doing anything holy. They are simply entertaining people, and then closing the sale.

We watched a couple of Christmas movies last night, so I’m not against being entertained. But I wonder if the American church could do something more valuable than just engaging so many of their people in creating these productions that distract us from our real thoughts and problems. So many people have residual trauma and issues with the holidays. It doesn’t really help them long term just to distract them. Eventually, the new year comes, and they are left with their internal issues.

If the Christmas story is true, the Christ child was birthed in a cave. But the last preacher I heard talking about this cave, also put on a production where large camels paraded the Wise Men through his sanctuary. It just seems so hard for them to resist doing something spectacular that will draw bigger crowds of people who hopefully become members real soon.

Laura is a teacher, and she usually doesn’t look forward to the music programs that the schools put on every year. My wife is a genuine person, and she was with me during all the years when we did Hanging of the Green and all the extra services that I hold partially responsible for the decline in my relationship with my family of origin. We just never had time during the holidays to go home because we were always doing something extra at our church.

What people need more than anything during the holidays is less to do. We could take all that money that we’re investing in big productions and send it directly to the people who can’t afford to give gifts or do anything extravagant. Why not give people a break and not add an extra thing or two or three that they must do during the holiday season?

We certainly do not need to invent wars on Christmas and such to justify our excess.

If advent means waiting, then why does the Western church strongly suggest people get dressed up and come instead of just being with the people they love? Why do we need to come and see a production or hear a sermon about waiting, why can’t we just wait and spend quality time with our families?

I may never recover the relationship with my brothers and sister and my mom that I lost trying to entertain the congregation during the holidays. And this year, it was a coyote that destroyed the front end of my car and kept me from going home on Thanksgiving. But I am trying to pass on a new tradition to my children and grandchildren. What we now do during the holidays is amazingly simple. We watch movies, bake cookies, and enjoy a meal together. We wait together. We slow down. We shop after the holidays. We don’t have great expectations and some of us have taken the steps to address our trauma from the years gone by.

My children, who are now grown and have seen all the productions in the mega churches and our feebler attempts in our moderate congregations, are now opting for a remarkably simple response to the holidays. They don’t long to go see a major production. They don’t ask that we take an elaborate vacation or make a bunch of complicated plans. They just come to visit and share some food. Essentially, they come to our cave, where we are authentic and present together.

So, to my friends who are still wrapped up in all the productions of the holiday season, I encourage you to start unraveling those things before you one day crash and burn like we did. And for those of you who have trauma and wounds from the holidays, I encourage you to value yourself enough to do the self-care and recovery work that you need to while you develop much simpler traditions that serve you better.

It’s December 22nd as I write, and Laura and I are slowly getting ready to go have breakfast at our favorite place. Christmas is planned for December 31st when our daughters and their families can make it. Sometime this weekend, we’re going to fix the garbage disposal and get a car started with the help of our son-in-law. We will watch hours of Christmas movies, and lots of football over the days ahead. We’ll exchange a few gifts and play with our grandchildren.

Remember, almost everything we do is optional, so as we told our children, “Make good choices.”

Happy Holidays,

Karl Forehand

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