It looks like Santa Claus and his giant sack of toys have exploded in my living room; despite that fact that my wife and I try to reign in the commercial aspect of popular American Christmas celebrations by enforcing spending limits on our gift giving for the boys. She is helping one build legos and the other is playing with his Power Rangers action figures. I find myself thinking, 'I love Christmas, but I'm glad it's over.' But actually it isn't is it? Christmas has just begun and will last on the Christian Calendar until January 5th if my calculations are correct... which means two more sundays of Christmas.
Nothing makes me more aware of how influenced we are as Christians by popular culture than the Advent-Christmas season. No one goes to church on Christmas Day. I did once. A couple of years ago Christmas Day landed on a Sunday. The church wanted to continue with services... five people showed up. There were many people who didn't come to Christmas Eve services, which are usually quite popular.
So how do we practice religious devotion during Advent/Christmas? It isn't by church attendance for many. It is shopping and cooking and office parties. Many will call this their 'Holiday Celebration' completely unaware of the fact that Holiday used to mean Holy Day, a day devoted to religious observance. I feel slightly cranky and judgmental observing this and thinking some of the things that I'm thinking. Such as pondering how many people go through the season thinking that they really understand the 'reason for the season' while at the same time spending thousands of dollars on presents and never attending any sort of service or observing even private religious practices to celebrate this special season. Can we really call ourselves Christians if we go through Advent doing more to celebrate Capitalism than Christmas. So while the church is meant to be the presence of Christ to the world, in the world but not of it, St. Paul once wrote, I fear we are no more of the world than at at this season.
The thing I struggle with is, how to impress upon folks this point without sounding bitter or angry or (horror of horrors!) preachy.
I've given some thought lately to how it is that I will teach my children the meaning of Christmas. We read the Christmas story during the Advent season and we decorate the Christmas tree with hand made decorations that symbolize the Christian Christmas story... Angels, stars, crowns. We limit our own spending on them and engage them in shopping for the families that we adopt through our church. But now I must think about how to celebrate Christmas with them for the next two weeks, so that they learn that the season is not over, but has just begun. And then, do I mention any of this in church? or do I remain silent and let people enjoy a joyful season?