Friday, December 4, 2015

42341: The Reason for the Season

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was a homeschool Mom, and in a sense, it was. In 1986, my youngest started Kindergarten, and our family started on the journey of DIY Education. And that in itself is a tale for another day, but it is the preface to my journey away from celebrating Christmas.

I was sold on the idea of "Unit Studies", and what better way to incorporate this most beloved of traditions into our curriculum than to study the traditions of other cultures during this time of year? Remember, this was 12 years before Google was at our fingertips, Wikipedia was not going to be founded for another 15 years, and all we had to rely on was the library and our World Book Encyclopedia.

We had a lot of fun that year, putting out our shoes for Saint Nicholas Day, baking Santa Lucia buns, learning new songs, trying new recipes; we even put water and hay out for the wise men's camels on Epiphany. (Boy, were those camels messy!)

Why, we even studied about non-Christian traditions, and that my friends, is when I first learned that Hanukkah was more than the Jewish alternative to Christmas. It was much, much more! In fact, as we learned about the history of Hanukkah, I found myself saying to my husband, "I don't know why ALL believers don't celebrate this holiday! It's about standing up to persecution and injustice in the face of tyranny and oppression. Isn't that what we are called to do in our faith walk?"

Now, you have to understand that, for our family, Christmas really was about Christ. We did not go overboard into debt to buy gifts, we read the Nativity story aloud as a family, we did the advent wreath and prepared our hearts for His coming... ours was no pagan celebration of the sun. We really did celebrate Christ's birth, down to the birthday cake. We knew that the date was symbolic, that Christ was not really born in December. But we didn't think it mattered. We thought that as long as we were "keeping Christ in Christmas", God knew the intentions of our heart and honored us for honoring Him.

So, we added Hanukkah into our winter tradition, and exchanged our gifts on Saint Nicholas Day, so as to keep Christmas about Christ, and I patted myself on the back that I had one up on these people who got sucked into the commercialism and seasonal insanity that we call "the most wonderful time of the year."

But I have discovered that once I know the truth of a thing, I cannot un-know it. And that is how it has evolved over the years, as my naturally inquiring mind wants to learn more about the heart of a thing, I have gradually become convinced that just because we have honorable intentions, if we are in opposition to what God has actually asked us to do, then we have a dilemma. Do we continue to do things "as we have always done them", or do we find out if God has a better plan? I think you can guess the answer to that one.

The problem comes when we do not read all of the Bible; somehow we like to believe that everything in the front of the book does not apply to us. So, in Deuteronomy 12: 30, when God says, "be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates." we just gloss right over that: "Well, He is talking to Israel. I'm not Jewish. That doesn't apply to me... So what if Christmas was originally a pagan celebration? I'm not worshiping false gods."

Oops. Next I find out that "Israel" really means everyone who is a true worshiper of Yahweh. So, over the years the truth has continued to chip away at the layers of "harmless traditions" that have kept me from understanding how He really wants me to worship Him.

Since this is just one more step in my life/faith journey, I want to be very careful to only walk in the way I am being directed and not presume to take over the reins and direct my own path. Where I am now gives me no right to criticize another person for where they are in their own walk. I didn't get here overnight; it has taken me half of my life to get this far. One of the more important lessons I have learned along the way is speaking the truth without love makes me nothing more than a clanging cymbal... and who wants to listen to that? If I can't extend the same grace to others as He has extended to me, then I haven't learned much. 

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