What is Christmas about? If you'd asked me as a child, you'd have gotten a very mashed up response verging on the incoherent side. If I am being honest, it didn't mean much. It surprises me how little. Maybe I feel a pang of sorrow too.
Part of the void between feeling any meaning and the actual event is explained by my upbringing, I suppose. My confusion doesn't particularly lie in my home, but in church. I was taught, sometimes quite adamantly how Christmas did not have to do with Christ's birth. That lesson was in our dialogue around December and sometimes said from a pulpit or from behind a podium.
So Christians were teaching Christians about the invalid nature of the holiday. But other Christians were making a fuss. Pageants, lights, and songs. And a Catholic mass: censers, candles, choirs, Latin...what was that about? Sometimes church marquise would say "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." The rhyme made it seem valid, but I knew the truth. My church did none of those things. We might have poinsettias if there had been a December funeral that year. But there were no further adornments. We knew Jesus was born, and who He was, but it certainly didn't happen in December or on the 25th. We might sing a Christmas-y song or two, a sermon might incorporate a wrapped present if it were an object lesson, but not much more.
The pageants, the lights, the presents, the songs, were a part of my life, but divorced from the splendor of Christ. They were at school, or driving through a neighborhood, or watching It's a Wonderful Life.
As an adult I realized how strange that void was. It was three years ago. I had a boyfriend, and I was beginning to see the side of Christmas I never experienced. Anticipation of Christ's coming. It wasn't until I was on the phone with him during the break that I realized how little I thought of the season; it meant presents and trees and family togetherness. To him it was more: Advent, lit candles, reading from scripture each night with his parents.
It opened my world to that other side. Opened, but I didn't go inside.
I faked it. The closest I got to putting Christ in Christmas was reading The Gift of the Magi aloud to him. I recognized it as a glimpse at the gospel, of love, but not fully grown.
It wasn't till later, till last year, that it all started to make sense. Christ, Christmas, the coming, and my acceptance of it. The desire and need for a Savior, not just a 'Jewish' humanistic girl with a penchant for literature, but an as-is, thank you Jesus for your grace, Christian.
At long last Christmas has substance. Songs make sense. The desire to be at a Christmas eve service is true, not a facade. So the date is wrong, no matter, we have a reason to celebrate. I have a reason to sing.