Getting ready for Christmas (part 3)

I hadn’t really finished getting ready for this week’s getting-ready- for-Christmas theme, when Al asked me about it on the way home from church. But I had thought about it, and explained that it was about how we get ourselves ready. To get ready in the morning, we get dressed, and comb/brush our hair, and I put on a little makeup. The Bible talks about “putting off” and “putting on” not clothes but character qualities.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. … put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (Colossians 3:8,12-14)

I asked if there were qualities that were especially important to “put on” for Christmas. Al suggested givingness. I never heard the word before, but I like it. We need to put on givingness. He added love and thankfulness, and I suggested joy. Another I would add is patience, as this season often raises stress levels, between bringing together family members who don’t always get along, keeping people busy with many activities, and just the fact our expectations are for Christams to feel wonderful, and sometimes we just don’t feel that way.

This evening we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s been one of my favorites since childhood. I remember in seventh grade, for a social studies assignment, listing it as my favorite movie, and Charlie Brown as the character I most identified with. I don’t think any of my classmates thought I was a blockhead – being a straight A student earned me some measure of respect – but outside of the classroom I didn’t feel like I did anything well in their eyes.

I don’t remember what I thought then about Charlie Brown’s specific problem in this movie though. I had forgotten until we watched it this evening that he was so concerned about not understanding the meaning of Christmas. He didn’t understand why he felt so unhappy at Christmas, though clearly the commercialization bothered him. (And if it was bad in 1965, imagine what he’d think now!)

Having grown up watching it every year, I didn’t realize until I was an adult that there was anything unusual about Linus reciting the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. And I didn’t realize until tonight, reading about the background of this now classic Christmas special, that even in 1965 network executives were very much against such an overtly religious aspect to the show. I read elsewhere than only Charles Schultz could have gotten away with it.

But it’s that Scripture that changes things for Charlie Brown. The opinions of the other kids stop mattering to him. He takes his puny tree and happily walks home. And I guess it must have changed something for the other kids too, because after a while they follow. They tear all the prize-winning decorations of Snoopy’s doghouse and somehow transform what had been a branch too flimsy to hold a single ornament into a small but fully decorated tree. And when Charlie Brown returns, they all joyfully sing my favorite Christmas carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

I’m not sure how much givingness I have on right now. I struggle with the fact that I can’t spend much on Christmas, and while I’m happy making homemade presents, not all of my family would be thrilled about receiving them – at least not in place of store-bought presents. I felt joyful while I watched the Christmas plays this morning in church (at the last minute Al was asked to fill in as a wise man in the younger-kids play, in place of a small boy who go stage fright, as well as being a shepherd in the big-kids play). But it’s harder to keep the joy on at other times.

I guess one thing I need to keep putting on is patience with myself.


4 Responses to Getting ready for Christmas (part 3)

  1. cindyinsd says:

    You know, I love the idea of Christmas, and I hope we’ll have feast days like it when the world is renewed.

    For now, though, I wonder whether we don’t get our expectations elevated beyond reason by any number of things–holiday movies, advertising, even sermons. And we’re set up for failure by the very nature of the event. We’re expecting to fulfill our families and ourselves with all this.

    People with no families (or less-than-perfect families) feel inappropriately miserable. It looks to them as though everyone else has a perfect family and is celebrating the perfect holiday, and if they aren’t, it’s somehow their fault.

    People with perfectly adequate and even exemplary families feel that something is missing and that they’re not doing enough to make Christmas happen for their families–and they feel frayed like an old ribbon from all the activities they’re expected to participate in.

    People feel guilty they can’t provide enough in the way of gifts, or not the right gifts, or even that they’re buying too many or too expensive gifts for people who neither need nor want the gifts. But if they don’t buy/provide the gifts, they feel even more guilty! And if they spend the money on gifts for their families, they feel guilty for not buying a water buffalo for some needy family in Vietnam instead.

    Even as I write this, I’m feeling guilty for not having gotten a Christmas tree yet. But it’s been sooo cold, and as we live in the woods, I’d feel guilty for buying one off a lot. 😆

    Is this impossible or what? But I’m looking forward to having Communion next week with the church, a feast together in fellowship and in sharing Christ with one another as we do every week. Sometimes this doesn’t meet expectations, either, but the pressure isn’t so high, and we’re going to do it again next week anyhow. I would truly be perfectly happy to just do this and forget all the other stuff.

    (But I do enjoy the lights–other people’s lights, especially!) 😉

    Love, Cindy

  2. cindyinsd says:

    I’m just reading this and I realize I look like a true humbug here, and perhaps like I’m criticizing you–I’m not at all–just more identifying with poor Charlie Brown and with your last paragraph as well.

    And I hope you do have a blessed Christmas, Pauline.

    Love, Cindy

    • Pauline says:

      No problem, Cindy – I didn’t feel criticized by your comments. I think it’s good for us to know that other people feel the same way, that it’s not just us feeling let down because we make expectations too high, and then think the expectations were right and it’s us who are not meeting them.

      Even when we know that we don’t have to have the decorations and the presents and the food just right, we can feel guilty for not feeling as deeply spiritual as someone else seems to. I don’t want to be like my mother and ruin Christmas for other people by refusing to participate in things like gift exchanges that aren’t essential to Christmas but are fun. But most of our expectations about Christmas are about the cultural aspects of the holiday, the parts that we couldskip without in any way devaluing the importance of Jesus’ birth.

  3. Karen O says:

    A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of our favorites, too.

    I must be blessed – my wealthier family members do not look down on the smaller, less expensive gifts we give.

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