During past Christmas celebrations, my parents decorated our home in holly and wreaths, hung twinkling lights from the roof and placed a live fir tree in the living room.
They filled the car trunk with colorful shopping bags and lined the tops of their closet shelves with presents wrapped in red, green and gold gift wrap.
One particular year, we did not put up a Christmas tree, hang lights or place a wreath on the front door.
That year, my family wanted to find out how things might be different in our home and in our worship without the ornaments and gadgets, twinkling lights, Santa tales, mistletoe and, yes, even the presents.
I was a high school student and my sister was a toddler at the time. So, while Christmas didn’t mean much to her, it was quite a jolt for me. How could I celebrate Christmas without the bells and whistles?
In the weeks preceding that particular Christmas, I felt conflicted. Christmas is a dazzling season with all of its commercialism, television shows and songs promoting the holiday atmosphere and Christmas spirit.
Families use that time to gather, give and get gifts, eat and bond.
When I told a couple of school friends about my family’s decision to remove secular Christmas, they thought it sounded pretty bad, maybe even weird. I felt the same way — in the beginning.
When Christmas Day came, my parents gave me a few “just because” we love you gifts, and we ate a big meal together. Otherwise, the day was pleasant, even without the Christmas props.
Without the distractions, I decided to learn more about this holiday’s origins. I was used to celebrating traditions that I knew little about, including customs that symbolized ancient worship of human-made gods.
Christmas trees are delightfully pleasing to the eye, but centuries ago, Egyptians, Romans and Druids worshiped the very trees (fir included) that families now bring into their homes with which to honor Christ. The practice survived among pagan Europeans after they were converted to Christianity. Similarly, mistletoe and holly had pagan origins, and Christmas lights and evergreen were used as decorations to celebrate the winter solstice and to combat evil spirits.
While I do not interfere in others’ Christmas celebrations, I have cut many Christmas traditions out of my worship.
I think, however, that sometimes in all the glitter and glam of the holiday, we miss what’s truly important. Jesus Christ simply wanted us to accept his kingship and follow him without the distractions that weigh down his message of love and peace and of worshiping the Father with spirit and truth.
Chante Warren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org