are you a christian? and the trapping of christmas

My day care provider asked me today if I was a Christian. I hesitated for a moment, afraid of where the conversation was going. Just the other day a Jehovah’s Witness knocked on the door asking if I believed what the Bible says. I told him that I did but did not want any more information. I am well aware of my day care provider’s religious views; she met her husband in Ghana where he was doing missionary work. Her husband and children took a missionary trip this past summer. And often when I come to pick up my son, there is Christian children’s music playing. Questions about religion put me on guard.


But after hesitating, I answered in the affirmative. A look of relief came across her face, as she explained she had been wanting to ask, but didn’t want to offend. I told her that we has recently (Sunday) reaffirmed our desire to attend church regularly, and then we chatted a bit about the particular church and pastor before I left.

This conversation is not a new one to me. Having a few friends who are deeply religious, whenever I meet their equally devout (Chrsitian) friends, they always ask, “What church do you belong to?” I generally find this question annoying, although I understand that it’s a way for people to orient you in the areas of the world that are important to them. But before I moved here, I hadn’t attended church because I couldn’t find one that meshed well with my values. The teachings of the Bible and Jesus resonate with me, but not the social world of most churches. The hypocrisies, materialism, and hatred found in many churches leaves me feeling less than blessed, so I just didn’t go. Yoga has taught me a lot about spirituality and the interconnectedness of all religious teachings, so for the most part, I have cultivated my spirit and connection to God on my own.

Now that I have children, though, having a religious connection has become more important to me. I would like to raise them simply as compassionate human beings but realize that I don’t know how to do that outside of a religious frame of reference. Christianity is all I know. And now that I’ve found a church that works for me (i.e. is not just tolerant, but accepting of all people, come as you are dress, and many programs helping those in need), I don’t feel so much trepidation at attending church.

But now I find myself having a lot of angst about Christmas and my children’s experience with the holiday. As a child, my memories of the holidays were joyous; we may not have gotten much during the year, but that was because my parents were saving to buy us toys and stuff for Christmas. Christmas Day had to be the happiest day of my year for many years, at least until I was a teenager. My brother and I would “camp out” in our play room in sleeping bags waiting for a reasonable time to go downstairs and see what we got. Usually that was about 2am, and we’d play for several hours until my mother told us to go back to bed. As joyous as it was, however, I find myself looking back on it and not being too happy with myself. There was little mention of Christ during the holidays at my house. I was so much more concerned with what things I had gotten. I know this is not an abnormal thing for kids, but I wish I’d been more grateful and thankful.

So how do I balance wanting my children to have the excitement of the holidays and pleasure at receiving gifts with a healthy appreciation and acknowledgment of the “reason for the season?”

5 thoughts on “are you a christian? and the trapping of christmas

  1. Indeed there is a reason for the season. I grew up in three different “third world” countries in Southern Africa. Born in a place called Gaborone,Botswana and brought up in Zimbabwe and Zambia. My father, an Electrical Engineer with an Oxford Degree and my Mother a Copy typist who worked her way to a Human Resource Officer.

    That said, I was born and raised in the Catholic Church. My brothers were all alter boys and we attending Mass faithfully every Sunday. I have received all but 2 of the Seven Sacraments, these are, “The annointing of the sick,” and “Holy Orders or Priesthood.” The five that I have received are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance/Confession and Matrimony. I have never claimed to be the “best Catholic” or the “best Christian,” but I am certainly a one who seeks Christ in my thoughts and in my words, daily. The scriptures in which I find daily strength are Ephesians 6 and Psalm 91. Like most folks, I am a work in progress.

    My introduction briefly highlights my background, the reason for this is that, several people in the region of the world that I grew up were very devout, dedicated and spiritual persons. At least the ones that I congregated with. Though they may have had very little, they were still very faithful and ever present for Mass every Sunday. I noticed however that the Catholic Church was less “popular” in this way when I came to the United States. Most of the pews were empty and the Priest was happy to see anyone show up for Mass.

    It saddens me that there are persons that will often take offense to the mention of Christ or Religion in general. I believe that many people feel that because they have opposite views as regards religion, they do cannot and will not discuss the possibility of a Christ and yet they celebrate “Christmas.” We must be open to the Knowledge of Christ in order to appreciate his work in our lives, without which we are empty. We cannot be afraid to speak his name. Remember that Peter denied Christ to the Pharisees three times, will you follow in his footsteps?

    Back to the Commercialism of the Holidays: While charging Christmas Gifts to my plastic this year, I was especially choked up by the fact that Christmas for me as a child, was always about Family, prayer and the prospect of a hearty meal. Never gifts, especially with the fact that my parents had six children.

    We are slowly forgetting the true meaning of Christianity, especially with the liklihood of false and self seeking prophets in our midst. These are the ones that preach the importance of money over love. Juanita Bynum for example, but I won’t get into that. I believe Christmas should be about loving your neighbour and celebrating Christs existance in our lives.

    Allow me to say that I am a respector of all religions. I believe in one God for all persons, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh,Bhuddist, whatever the case may be for you, our human journey and experience is one in God.

    Peace be with you and may love prevail in your home this Christmas and always.

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  2. “I would like to raise them simply as compassionate human beings but realize that I don’t know how to do that outside of a religious frame of reference.”

    I think there are lots of ways to raise compassionate human beings outside of religion. Surround yourself with compassionate people, encourage your children to do service. Be compassionate yourself. I think religion can be good in terms of this sort of ‘moral education’ and it seems like a good choice for you and your family, but it’s certainly not the only way to do it.

    Re: Christmas. I’m an atheist,and am not big on presents, but I love Christmas. As a good sociologist, I see the important latent function of a ritual like Christmas in bringing together families and communities, regardless of it’s ‘manifest’ religious purpose. As a human being, I love to spend time with my family, which is now scattered across several states, and this is what makes Christmas Christmas to me.

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  3. carly – i agree that there are lots of ways to do it, and your suggestions are good ones. i also agree with you re: the ritualization of the holiday. i feel the same way about thanksgiving. i have several friends who refuse to celebrate thanksgiving, but i think that the ritual of cooking for loved ones and sharing a meal together is a great one.

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  4. africanwoman – i think statements such as this one:
    “we must be open to the Knowledge of Christ in order to appreciate his work in our lives, without which we are empty” is one reason why religious conversations make me nervous. it seems like you are saying that without an acknowledgment of Christ as a savior, we are without. Without what, I’m not sure. i like the idea of jesus, and the story of his life gives me a guide that speaks to me, but i don’t like the dogma of religion.

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  5. Point of clarification:
    At the end of my statement, I explain the fact that I have no qualms with anyone whose religious or non-religious beliefs differ from mine, no matter what it is that they believe in. Perhaps what I should have specified is that, for those persons that claim to know Christ or have an experience of him, with him and in him, those persons are WITHOUT unless they truly and fully acknowledge him in their lives. This is not something we all grow into for as humans we fall short of many things. A simple illustration would be the type of relationship you would have with your spouse, which requires nurturing and faithfulness etc.

    Trust me, religious conversations make me nervous as well, but my upbringing being what it is remains stedfast in what I relayed earlier. I do not believe in imposing my beliefs on others because I am not all knowing and imposing my beliefs on others would eliminate the possibility for my own growth as a human being. In other words, I am open to many perspectives but concrete in my foundation, if that makes sense. I simply appreciate various belief systems as they are presented to me by the person practicing them. For example, my husband is not a Christian nor does he subscribe to any religious beliefs. Not appreciating other people’s religious or non-religious beliefs would be like refusing to accept that someone is gay or lesbian. As a human being and respector of all persons, I would want to treat others as I would like to be treated.

    For me personally, one of the things that keeps me going id having the knowledge of Christ, even when things go wrong for me.

    I appreciated carly confused’s views/meaning and understanding of Christmas as I understand your concerns, gradmommy, on general concerns surrounding religious discussion. So essentially, I suppose my focus was intended to emphasize on the reason for the season as I have grown to know and understand it. Religion does teach us to be more compassionate people but it is not the only form of reference that one can use when deciding how to raise their children. We are free moral agents; people of choice, which means if there is a God as I believe there is, he wants us to have the freedoms of coming to know him…FREELY, WILLINGLY and LOVINGLY.

    The reason for the season is LOVE, FAMILY, MEMORIES, THANKFULNESS, COMPASSION, GIVING and THE CELEBRATION OF LIFE.

    Dictionary.com defines Christmas as follows:

    the annual festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25 and now generally observed as a legal holiday and an occasion for exchanging gifts.

    1. period extending from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6
    2. a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ; a quarter day in England, Wales, and Ireland

    an annual festival in memory of the birth of Christ, held on December 25, Christmas Day

    As always Peace be with you!

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