Let’s face it: Skipping Advent is the real “reason for the season.” The birth of Jesus has nothing to do with it.
Immediately after Thanksgiving (and possibly before, but I was not shopping then), walking into a mall or any large store means an assault on the senses with happy, jolly Christmas music, all fine and good when skipping Advent is the goal.
Why? Listen to Advent music: It’s pretty well all in a minor key, set to make us think about why the world so badly needs a savior. Who wants to be depressed and think about those things at this exciting time of the year? We are much better off skipping Advent and heading straight for Christmas!
Following are five suggestions to help you successfully navigate Christmas, and free you from thinking about anything but fun and food and presents, and end up with a holiday not in the least hampered by thoughts of a baby born in difficult circumstances whose life is in immediate danger because the world is a real mess and seriously in need of repentance.
Choose carefully the kinds of seasonal music surrounding you and your loved ones. Again, the Holidays are a season of happiness, family, joy and gifts. Accompanying music should be full of good cheer, packed with expectations of stuff and fun. Things like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “White Christmas” are highly encouraged.
Under no conditions should you listen to such deeply melancholy songs as “Mary Did You Know” or, God forbid, “In the Bleak Midwinter.” “O Come All Ye Faithful” is to be avoided at all costs. “Silent Night” is marginally OK as long as it is accompanied by snow, lots of snow, which quite well obscures any other nuances in the song.
Please, above all, do not even consider listening to Handel’s Messiah. Let’s face it: titles like “For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth,” “The People that Walked in Darkness,” or “He Was Cut Off Out of the Land of the Living” have no place in happy Christmas celebrations.
Christmas decor ideally reflects the cheer and happiness of the season. Frolicking reindeer, dancing Santas, fluffy geese, picturesque villages with trains (trains are seriously trendy) running through them–those are good choices. Snow should be everywhere since a white Christmas is the most hoped-for goal–even if people live in the Southern Hemisphere and are in the midst of their longest, hottest days of the year.
Load up on nutcrackers–they point directly to the real meaning of Christmas: gifts and more gifts. A star on top of the tree is OK, but a big, fancy bow representing the hope of many beautifully wrapped boxes is far preferable.
If you must display a nativity scene, make sure that Mary and Joseph look clean and well-nourished, with expensive robes draping them. Baby Jesus should be wrapped in the best. The manger/crib should be comfortable, padded, and artistically carved.
Don’t worry about biblical accuracy with your nativity scene, so showcase the family in a remote shack rather than in the bosom of the household as all first-century stables were. Don’t even hint at the idea that relatives who had already filled their guest quarters would under no conditions send a young, pregnant woman out to birth a baby alone.
Ignore the fact that the wise men showed up a year or two later and were most definitely not present at or near the birth. A giant, benevolent-looking Santa overlooking the nativity would be a nice touch.
THREE: HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES
Fill the weeks leading to Christmas with parties, shopping, cooking as much highly-sugared food as possible, visits to Santa, and hints of gifts. Watch lots of family, Santa-themed TV shows, especially ones that affirm how real Santa is or could be if people would believe properly.
Talk about Santa daily, reminding children that Santa knows EVERYTHING. Use that omniscience to enforce good behavior for children because the pressure of all the parties and other activities, fueled by excess sugar for them and alcohol for the older ones, makes it impossible for parents to be good disciplinarians.
Emphasize Santa’s great powers, his ability to be everywhere at once, and how important it is to believe in him, or he might not show up. Remind your children frequently that Santa has the power to grant wishes–and never disappoints.
FOUR: HOLIDAY WORSHIP
Should you be in the habit of attending worship services, I suggest you refrain from doing so in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In the first place, it will ease the holiday scheduling somewhat. But more importantly, skipping Advent worship frees you from having to deal with distracting issues surrounding worship practices this time of the year.
Truly, Advent readings don’t fit well with the theme of cheer, happiness, gifts and Santa that characterize the season. For example, look at the readings for the first Sunday in Advent (Dec 3: don’t worry, you’ve already missed it). These words are downright depressing and to be avoided if you want to keep holiday spirits intact.
However, if you feel you must go to church during those weeks, go to those that ignore Advent, which will be mostly churches that say they teach the Bible and only the Bible. You’ll find the services less confusing and will keep your energy level high, undistracted by pondering the lost state of humanity.
One exception might be Christmas Eve. However, make sure that the service time is convenient and does not interfere with other planned family fun, celebrations, TV specials and Santa’s appearance. Best choice? Someplace where you will be treated to a spectacular professional performance, preferably with live animals, so you can walk out feeling really good about yourself, freed from the nagging thoughts about the lack of peace on earth and the need of humankind for divine help.
FIVE: CHRISTMAS DAY
This day is ALL about the gifts Santa and his elves made and Rudolph brought. If you want to mention Jesus, perhaps you can do a “birthday party for Jesus” when you bring out the dessert for the meal. If you do this, be sure that the babyhood of Jesus is all that is mentioned. Do not let any idea of “God with us” or “Unto us a Son is Given” where the government will be upon his shoulders and he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, with the accompanying demand for adoration, interfere with the party/gift atmosphere.
I am sure there are many other suggestions for keeping people focused and stress-free for the season. Please feel free to add yours in the comments section below. It’s time to take back Christmas and keep the reason for the season intact!
[Note: I freely admit I’m plagiarizing my work here–many years ago, I wrote a blog post about this–but sometimes, great work must be resurrected!]