Happy Holy Days

I think the typical depression around Christmas that affects many Christians is largely due to a shift from Christmas being a Church feastday to a Present-opening orgy.

When it was “just” a feastday, believers went to church and participated in an especially glorious Liturgy which could be enjoyed equally by everyone, rich and poor. The entire emphasis of the Liturgy is the Nativity and Incarnation. Afterwards, people typically went home to a big meal which was shared with friends and neighbors. In many places, Christmas day was like an open house, with people visiting their friends and neighbors and having a bite to eat at each stop.

The idea of buying shopping-cart-fulls of consumer goods for presents is a relatively new phenomenon and one that Christians should resist with every fiber of their being. Nowadays, the zenith of the day is the big Wow moment when the kids rip into their presents when it used to be the moment when we received the Holy Eucharist at church. As Christians, we know this isn’t how things are supposed to be and it grieves us, even if we don’t exactly understand the reason we feel so melancholy at Christmas.

Focus on the Family has this RIDICULOUS chart where they tabulate which stores are “Christmas friendly,” which is to say, which stores allow their clerks to say “Merry Christmas” intead of “Happy Holidays.” I actually prefer “Happy Holidays,” which means “Happy Holy Days.” Christmas should be a holy day where we contemplate and give thanks for the Incarnation. We need a little more emphasis on the “holy” and a little less emphasis on the “merry.”

It is our own consumerism and materialism that has taken “Christ out of Christmas,” not stores that have instructed their employees to greet us with “Happy Holidays.” It’s the very fact that our entire idea of Christmas is based on SHOPPING that has secularized the season. We Christians have done this to ourselves and are being hypocritical when we blame Target and other stores.

I think if Christians want to protest the secularization of Christmas they should begin with their own households. Save the big electronic gifts for birthdays and just give smaller, more meaningful presents for Christmas. Give homemade gifts, or gifts of your time. Make the Christmas morning church service the center of the day, followed up by a family meal. Sure, open up your presents but don’t make it the zenith of the day.

If you support the type of church that closes its doors on Christmas morning if it falls on a Sunday  (or simply isn’t having a Christmas service)  so the families can stay home to enjoy that Wow moment unimpeded, find one that has a Christmas service that day.

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