Posted on January 5th, 2012 | Filed under Challenges, Community, Intra-Faith, Popular Culture
Tagged with Christianity, Christmas, generosity, Goodwill, holiday, Jesus, love, New Year's, Religion, Spirit of Christmas
As I write this piece, the Christmas decorations in my house are already beginning to come down. My family took our Christmas tree down on New Year’s Eve and just a couple of days ago I helped pack up our nativity display. It has barely been a full week since Christmas and although we are packing up our decorations early due to a variety of reasons; it is already beginning to feel like this Christmas was something that happened long ago. The Christmas merchandise and decorations were on already on sale when I went out to the stores only days after Christmas, and several stores already had displays and decorations set-up for Valentine’s Day and the spring season. By the look of it, Christmas is long-gone in the retail realm.
As these festive decorations and reminders of the holiday disappear, and as the days progress, Christmas does tend to fade from our minds. Like any piece of sensational or breaking news, it is hard to focus on or remember something when it is not immediately present or talked about. The struggle to hold on to the Christmas spirit is personal as well. I have already returned to campus for a new class that begins the first week of 2012 and my mind is gearing up for the amount of readings, papers, and work I will have to do next semester. Additionally, I looked through a catalog this week in search of a children’s spring or Easter musical for the church where I work. I know several people who have already returned to work and many more that will do so the week after the New Year’s festivities. This eventual transition back into our daily routines is inevitable, so for many the holiday season becomes a much-needed pause in the midst of busy lives and busy schedules.
However, as I and many others transition back into the reality of work, school, and whatever else occupies our days, so too do many of these wonderful stories of love and generosity that emerge during the holiday season. Earlier this month an article explained that many people were paying off the layaway balances of others in Kmarts across the United States.
Another report said that a United Methodist church in my home conference was planning to give away its Christmas offering to a variety of local charities and programs to help those in need. A USA Today article highlighted interfaith cooperation that emerged during the holidays. All of these stories and more proliferated newspapers, blogs, and TV stations during the holiday. Yet, as time goes by, these stories will become less frequent, almost as if stories of love, generosity, and goodwill are something that are just a part of the Christmas season.
There is a tendency to hype up the Christmas season. Some call for putting the “Christ” back in Christmas. Commercially, Christmas runs from anytime after Labor Day until it peters out the week after Christmas. For many it becomes the time of year to reach out to others. For me, it becomes a time to reflect upon the extraordinary love God displayed through the birth of Jesus. Nevertheless, it becomes hard to keep it up after Christmas has come and gone.
Perhaps this is where the real fight for Christmas comes in: a fight not to make Christmas more Christian and less commercial, but a fight to hold on to the spirit of Christmas--the values of love, generosity, and goodwill--throughout the year and practice them more regularly. It is certainly not easy, and it is something that I have not always done successfully myself. It becomes easy to be swept back up into our daily routines.
But what if we were to take the values that we love most about Christmas (or any of our religious holidays, for that matter) and carry those beyond the season? As I understand the Christmas story, Jesus was not around for just one or twelve days, but lived for thirty or so years and actively engaged in a ministry of love, generosity, and goodwill. Surely I can try and commit to carrying those same values beyond the month of December.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and can be found at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Presepi2003.JPG
Christina Yost is a first year M.Div. student at Methodist Theological School in Ohio and received her B.A. in Pre-Theology and Psychology at Ohio Wesleyan University. She is pursuing ordination in the United Methodist Church and is currently a certified candidate in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference.