Recently I was reading a blog where the writer was feeling sorry for "those poor souls" who don't celebrate Christmas, but he wished us happiness in spite of ourselves. I have to admit that I was a little peeved and wanted to leave a comment, but I decided against it. I was left wondering, though, why people tend to assume that we are "poor souls."
Probably most of my readers know by now that we don’t celebrate Christmas. Some may wonder what it is exactly that we do while we’re “not celebrating”.
So, I thought I’d just write a post about these topics. :-)
It's Not What You Think
In the first place, we don't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves and being gloomy and sad because we “can’t celebrate like other people do.” Some folks tend to get funny ideas of what people with different convictions than theirs actually think or feel about a thing like this. Unfortunately, there are people who think that when you have a conviction about something that makes you different from "the norm" (Christmas, ladies wearing pants, homeschooling, simple living, television etc.), that secretly in your heart you are constantly lamenting the fact and feeling terribly deprived. Sorry to disillusion some of you, but we’re not all like that – though I don’t deny that there are some non-celebrators among us who do feel that way, and also that many of us are sometimes a bit forlorn because no one has time for us during this time of the year. (And because our churches are full of Christmasy stuff.)
For some women and kids it is common to have people assume that their husband or father forces them not to celebrate against their will. While I know there are some families that have that uncomfortable problem, I also know that there are people with the opposite problem. They are forced to celebrate against their will. So, here's the thing: if you judge our conviction as "wrong" because someone among us is unhappy about it, that will condemn your own celebrations because there are unhappy people in your crowd too (and maybe more of them). So, be careful how you judge. John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
I also know for a fact that there are plenty of wives and children who are not at all bothered about their family's conviction not to celebrate and even agree 100%. It's a huge frustration to some of us that we have extended family and friends who simply refuse to believe we are "on board" with not celebrating.
My mom had a lady she knew greet her in the grocery store one year in December and say in a condescending, exaggerated ways, "It must be the Lord who puts that smile on your face!" My mom, who had no idea what was going on, said, "Of course, it is!" She was so puzzled that she mentioned it later to the woman's sister. The sister told my mom the lady said that because she was feeling sorry for her because she'd found out we didn't celebrate Christmas. My mom was really burned up about that as she would have answered differently if she'd know the reason for the comment. However, it's just as well, because Mom's answer may have challenged the lady's presuppositions since Mom replied as if she thought the lady was somewhat daft for even saying such a thing. :-)
To the Lord
My own mom and others I know have had much more annoying things than this happen, however. There are those who simply can't let the thing alone - usually some close family member or friend. Ladies, you should be more consumed with "Christian grace" than with "Christmas spirit." Just because you "couldn't stand" not to celebrate, or because it cramps your personal style that we don't, it doesn't follow that you need to pester folks into "joining the fun." Nor do you need to shame them into participating to prove that they "really love the Lord." "Christian grace" with its shoes on in this case is "Keep Your Mouth Shut." I know it's hard sometimes, but here's the truth:
1. If the lady has one mind with her husband or church about not celebrating Christmas, you are only annoying her and causing offence.
2. If the lady does not agree with her husband or church about not celebrating, you are hurting her and making a wound worse!
These go double for children! It is not your job to turn kids against their parents on matters that are purely preference and personal conviction, rather than clear commands to the New Testament church.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-11 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
Speaking of personal preferences and convictions, I should point out something really important here that people on both sides of this issue need to deal with.
Romans 14:4-10 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Did you catch all that? We each answer to our own Master - God; not to each other. Some of us esteem one day - Christmas, in this case - above another and some of us treat the day the same as any other day. We each need to be fully persuaded in the position we take in our own minds - not some one else's!! Hello! You - yes, YOU - stop following the dictates of some one else's conscience and stop trying to force your conscience on someone else. This is about YOUR relationship with the Lord, this is about why Christ died for YOU, so that YOU could be HIS servant in this life and the one to come. We live unto HIM, not unto men. Whether we regard the day, or whether we don't regard it we are HIS and we will give account to HIM. And, we jolly well better be doing it for HIM and not to please man. Would to God that we could grasp the depth and liberty in that!
My brother grilling one winter day (not Dec. 25th).
So What Do "Those Poor Souls" Do Anyway?
I couldn't even begin to tell all the things non-celebrators do. I don't know myself. But, here are some things that I know or would expect: Reading, catching up on sleep, family games, sledding, cook outs, barbecues, working, studying, talking with friends who also don't celebrate, camping, fishing, cleaning house, sewing, writing (that's me right now), watching a movie, washing clothes, having a family meal...
You get the idea. :-)
I expect that there are even a few who forget that it's a postal holiday and check the mail! :-)
My Own Family's Practice
When my family really finally gave Christmas up completely, we usually treated the day like any other. We did school work (we were homeschooling), chores, etc. and ate a much-less-than-festive meal. Otherwise we treated it like a Saturday – chores, a little recreation (maybe reading or playing outside), and normal meals.
Later, when we had friends who lived in our area who were not celebrating we sometimes got together for a meal and to visit and play a few games. This was usually because they were folks we didn’t see often, and as the men all had the day off we were able to enjoy spending a day together.
Where we live now our local family doesn’t have any friends close enough to really get together with conveniently, so we usually spend it as a regular Saturday around here with some chores and some family time – perhaps a meal or a movie together.
One year my brother managed to shoot a deer here on our property on the morning of December 25th, so that year we spent in various stages of processing the carcass. That was a very important addition to my brother and sister-in-law's income, so it was a real blessing for them and it was pleasant working together as a family on such a project. It was also rather convenient that it happened on a "spare" day. :-)
I know other people do different things than we do. If you wonder what it is they actually do, ask them. But, don't do so in order to feel sorry for them or make prickly remarks, OK?
Speaking of asking, there is one more issue I'd like to touch on. I have realized that part of the problem with misunderstanding comes from people not wanting to talk to US about why we do what we do. Maybe they are embarrassed, maybe they don't want to deal with it, maybe they just don't take the time. What can happen, though, is that they will take someone else's explanation for why we don't celebrate as the truth, when it may not be at all.
I ran across one explanation recently that was bothersome because the person doing the explaining (a Christmas celebrator) showed that "they" didn't have a grasp on what "we" really believe or why. The story given was something I had never heard before and I've been hearing and reading on this subject for around 30 years! You might say I was a little surprised and annoyed. In thinking about that though, I just want to encourage you to ask your friends why they don't celebrate. Don't assume you know, and don't just take someone else's explanation for what they do. There's a good chance that second hand information may be inaccurate on this issue, as often is the case.
One of the most ridiculous situations I've heard of happened to my husband and a few other people who were all attending a Baptist church in the southwest. The pastor was highly offended when he discovered that there were various people in his congregation who didn't celebrate Christmas and he was apparently determined to force them to submit to his opinion - that all "good Christians" celebrate Christmas. The comments he made from the pulpit were meant to make others think that anyone who didn't celebrate Christmas had been influenced by the Jehovah's Witnesses. This was far from the truth, but it connected the people he was shaming to a cult, even if it was in a very nebulous way. Don't fool yourself. That was intentional, and it was a very powerful mind game he was playing, both with the ones who didn't celebrate and with those whom he wished to "keep" in his camp. This is tragic, friends. Tragic. Such things ought not to be in the Lord's church over issues such as this. Romans 14 makes that abundantly clear!
We ourselves have a number of reasons why we don't celebrate - not just one. Consequently, I'm sure it's safe to say there are a lot of reasons why people don't celebrate. I have one friend who was already really frustrated with the whole drama of American Christmas before she met her husband who didn't celebrate. For her, it was an easy transition because she'd already cut back. There are people who had tragic Christmases in their childhood, such as one man my dad knew who had actually received a lump of coal some years. There are people who have had some terrible personal tragedy that has spoiled the season for them. There are people who just don't care any more because they are always alone anyway. I am sure there are people who can't deal with the pain of not having children. I'm just saying...don't assume you know.
Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.