I am a sucker for Christmas.
I love my festive season with all its trimmings. I adore stirring the Christmas pud with my kids, making mince pies and constructing a gingerbread house with shaky hands before the gloopy sugar cools and hardens. I love getting out our Advent box full of Christmassy books and toys to enjoy throughout December. My heart skips a beat at the thought of present shopping, wrapping and sending. I can’t get enough of Slade and Band Aid and Wham and all the cheese – and I adore singing the carols (preferably in parts, sinking to alto depths then screeching the descants at top volume just because this is what geeky musoes love to do).
In short, there is nothing I don’t like about Christmas. For me it’s a magical time of year, from start to finish – a time which draws together all my favourite things (family, cooking, baking, music, presents, time off) in celebration of Jesus, my Saviour and friend. What could be better?
Every year I engage in long, meaningful discussions with friends about how we can avoid the ‘trappings’ of a Western, consumerist Christmas, and get back to the simplicity of the original narrative. (I’ve had two such conversations in the last four days.) I spend buggy-pushing time wondering how I can make this Christmas more centred around Christ. I search for Advent reflections to help me make this period count. But, on the whole, I think I can hold all these things in balance fairly successfully – yes, we enjoy the material trappings, but our Christmas is certainly about Christ.
However, I’m not so sure our kids are able to balance it all. What message do I give them when I’m furiously herding them into the kitchen to bake some Christmas goodies, or strictly enforcing Christmas-card-colouring-in time, or banging on about Christingle, or Santa, or Bob Geldof? (Mister must be the only five year old in the country who is more familiar with Sir Bob from his early days as the green-trousered frontman of the Boomtown Rats. Honestly.)
I’m not anti these things – if you’re not convinced, perhaps re-read the opening paragraphs of this post. But, since having kids, I’m realising the need for clarity. I can hold the various elements of Christmas festivity in balance – but they probably can’t, and neither should I expect them to. So, the question is: what are we celebrating this Christmas? Because the narrative which truly gives our Christmas its magic – the story which sparkles infinitely beyond any Christmas myth, film or song – is what I want my kids to remember. It changes us in December – but, more than that, it changes us through the year.
Christmas is a magical time for kids. But if we source that magic from the Disney store, trips to see Santa, Christingle services, tree-decorating or anything temporary, we run the risk of breeding a generation of materialistic, self-centred individuals who know nothing of their place in the most incredible story of all time.
I want my kids to have a magical Christmas. And this starts with telling them the most amazing story ever known: that God should not leave us in our chaos and mess, but send His son to live among us, to understand, to empathise, to die and be resurrected. How our house is decorated will point to this story. The songs we sing will point to this story. The food will celebrate the story. But mainly, we will be telling the story – because this story is the true magic of Christmas, the magic which lasts and doesn’t fade.
* In case any of you are concerned about my use of the word ‘magic’, I offer this disclaimer. No connection to black magic or anything otherwise un-Christian is intended – my use of the word is based on its prominence in the language used around Christmas time. For example, M&S rebrand as ‘Magic and Sparkle’ throughout the Christmas season; parents talk of wanting to make the season ‘magical’ for their children; Christmas activities are marketed as ‘magical’.
If you’re not bothered about my use of the word, forget I ever said any of this.