By Sam Burnham
I tease my wife about Christmas. It's true. It's a habit that I developed before we were even married. She has a gift for decorating and her festive spirit has always been contagious. She's quick to trim the tree, usually having the lights blazing before Thanksgiving. This is a tendency I have usually frowned upon as the retailers push the Christmas shopping season ever towards July in an effort to separate us from our money. That particular piece of the free market system provokes my innards toward nausea and has destroyed any stray urge I might have had to visit a shopping mall.
But I must admit that in the last few years my teasing has become more of a hollow tradition. I do it because I've been at it for almost 20 years and it just wouldn't be Christmastime without it. My meaning of Christmas is growing, changing, maturing. And I'm learning to completely sever commercialism from the season.
I don't wish to reduce this article to a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" bumper sticker as the experience I'm having is not cliche and the existence of such a product is a bit ironic in itself. It's also too easy to set up a creche in the corner of a room and use it to convince yourself that you're keeping the real reason for Christmas this year.
As a family, we have our creche and we are observing the a weekly Advent reading around our table each week. We have candles and scriptures and plenty of other reminders of the religious nature of this holiday season. But that still doesn't capture the entire experience that I'm having.
Our tree and the other lights around our home do make a stark contrast against the bleak appearance of a dreary overcast day. Our elves, now in a state of semi-retirement have made a much less intrusive appearance as I have seen them teach many lessons of fun, redemption, and beauty. I cannot imagine a Christmas without them and the memories of the way they amazed my sons.
Everywhere I look this year there are memories. The season begs me to look deeper into myself and expect to unearth an increasingly better person. It calls for me to chisel away at the fake facade of Christmas and uncover forgiveness, charity, grace, beauty, wonder, gratitude. Like the elves, this might require a little mischief and probably something often credited as magic but that believers know as faith.
When asked what I want for Christmas, I smile. You can't buy me anything in a store. I won't show ingratitude for a gift but for me, a physical possession just isn't that impressive this year.
Hearing my sons read to our family from the scriptures, having a meal together, these things are fleeting as time is passing and they will leave the nest to start their own lives. But what is going on is going to instill in them, and in myself, things of permanence - memory, tradition, faith. These are things that time cannot erode, cold cannot freeze, heat cannot melt and tyrants cannot banish. The symbols may be temporal but the realities are much more permanent. How could I ever unwrap a package and find anything remotely like that inside?
So those are a few of my thoughts. The season is young, so there are bound to be more. Dig deeper this year.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire