December 24, 2014 by

Reclaiming Christmas (No, Not the Way You Think)


Categories: General

jeff oceanIt’s Christmas Eve, and you’ll never guess where I am.

But let me back up a minute.

My family has been on a bit of a quest to reclaim Christmas. Not in the sense of “put Christ back in Christmas” like all the angry folks who feel like their nativity scenes are under attack by the secularists and the interfaith people. (Besides, if you go back far enough in history, turns out WE were the ones who superimposed┬áChrist into “Christmas” in the first place. But I digress…)

No, what I’m talking about is that we’re looking for new ways to bring back some meaning and memory to the holiday season that we feel has been lost to us.

We’re not a big family, and we don’t have a lot of holiday “obligations” where family is concerned, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the same pressure as everyone else as far as the holidays go. What are we going to buy for each other? What are we going to do? How are we going to afford it?

I’ve seen a lot of irritation on the Facebooks this year about how commercialized Christmas has become. Oh, yeah, I know, we’ve been dealing with this since before the times of “Miracle on 34th Street,” but you know what I mean–it’s been over the top. Stores opening ON Thanksgiving, trying to draw the crowds after Thanksgiving dinner, making employees miss time with their families–that kind of thing. I’m in total agreement with the people who are saying we’re missing the point.

A few weeks ago, the Wild One and I were watching public television, of all things, and during one of their fundraisers they showed a Rick Steves special on the holidays in Europe. All through the show, we were looking at each other, going, “These people have it right.” In all of these places Rick Steves showed us throughout Europe, and how people were celebrating their various traditions–family, music, decorations, special events–we could see how far America has strayed from the Christmas spirit over the years. Yes, they still have Christmas shopping and so on, but it is far understated compared to what we have here. In these places, Christmas is still about celebrating, not shopping. We just came home from a trip to Europe not long ago. It made us want to go back.

So that’s one way we’re trying to recapture the spirit of the holidays. For the past two years, we haven’t bought into all the hype of Christmas shopping. Maybe a gift or two here or there, but mostly we’re focusing on experiences. What can we do as a family to make the time special, now that we’re not consumed with putting together a Christmas program for a church somewhere?

This segues into the other thing we’re doing to reclaim Christmas.

Like I said, we’re a small family. Our “child” is now of age, and there aren’t any grandkids yet. The only extended family we have is my mom, who usually spends Christmas with us and is trying (like the rest of us) to watch her weight, so slaving to prepare a big Christmas dinner seems ludicrous. The past few years, we’ve basically spent a few minutes by the tree opening a few presents, then we’re like, what now? We usually spend the day at the movies.

So this year, we thought, how about taking the experiencing-things-together thing to a new level? What if we ditch the typical gather-by-the-tree routine, skip the gift-giving, and give each other a different kind of gift by meeting somewhere besides either of our homes–going somewhere for the holiday?

So that’s what we did. And that’s what the picture is about.

We met my mom in San Diego, and we’re spending Christmas by the beach.

Today, we’ll probably take it easy, lounge, read, take pictures, and have a nice seafood dinner by the bay.

Tomorrow we’ll be at the San Diego Zoo.

So, yeah, I know it doesn’t sound all white-Christmassy. But it’s great. Not a lot of crowds, plenty of time to talk and relax, and we never get tired of looking at the ocean. We’re together for the holidays, without all the pressure to make something happen in the usual way.

There’s a lot of hubbub these days among Christians about protecting Christmas from those who would destroy it. I understand their concerns, but honestly, I don’t think that’s possible. Like I said, many centuries ago, we actually inserted Christ over a pagan holiday (solstice) in order to Christianize the season, and while that essentially worked, it doesn’t really give us any particular claim over the season itself.

In my view, the great thing about Christmas as we’ve come to know it–and the thing that really needs protecting–is that in one way or another, it’s become a time of year to step away from the normal routine and enjoy several weeks of something special. The giving of gifts (not in the greedy commercial way), the spreading of goodwill, the proclaiming of peace–the many various traditions that have come to have special meaning for each of us–this is what Christmas has given us. This is what we need to reclaim. As for keeping Christ in Christmas–that’s not going to happen by fighting some culture war. That’s up to you and me, and how we observe Christmas in our own hearts and minds.

However you choose to celebrate this year–do something, big or small, to make it special.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

2 Responses to Reclaiming Christmas (No, Not the Way You Think)

    • Wayward Son Post author

      Fred, I hear you. Growing up in the Episcopal tradition, advent has always been a meaningful time. I’ve written several Christmas songs, and my personal favorite is one about advent, about the world groaning until Messiah arrives. Hope your Christmas was great.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.