Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Disappointed with Christmas

I have always disliked the holiday seasons; Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving.  Growing up, we lived far from our extended family and had only the 4 of us.  Holidays would be spent with friends and dinner at our house or theirs.  As I got older, I guess I became disillusioned with the festivities, particularly the dinner.  The way I saw it, my mother put so much effort into making the turkey dinner complete with the best china and barely had time to enjoy her visiting.  

I loved the dinner aspect because it was one of the rare times that the fine China dishes came out.  My mother had Lavendar Rose.  She had them on display and some dishes had been her wedding presents. Over the years we would add pieces to the collection for her. For her 70th birthday, I found the figurine that goes with it.  It was used and had crazing but I was happy that I found it for her.  It was called Shirley. Oddly, I have developed old fashioned tastes and this collection has been promised to me in the future.

When my parents remodeled the house, my mother changed her double sink to the one that had one sink smaller than the other as we had a dishwasher and mom figured you didn't really need such a big sink set if you didn't really wash the dishes by hand any more.  The exception was the China, as the gold edged rims aren't suitable for the heat of a dishwasher.  As the youngest, and from the time I was 16, the only remaining child in the house, it became my job to wash these dishes.  I loathed this job because the plates didn't fit in the sink.  

Over the years, the holiday seasons, Christmas in particular, has been one of my least favorite holidays.  I hadn't really been able to put my finger on it.  Possibly the mix of commercialism/materialism that seems to be forced upon the senses.  The "spirit" of Christmas as a season of joy and giving back seems to be mired with competition in the stores to get "THE item" for that special someone, spending money that some people don't have, the outdoing/one up manship that seems to accompany the season... has frankly turned me off.

Another aspect that causes depression for me at Christmas is the fact that my maternal family is on the other side of the country.  I have lived away from my parents/sibling for 15 years now.  In the late 90's, I would return home to my parents' place, but I have lived here in BC for 12 years now and have returned home for Christmas 3 times as airfare is insanely expensive.  Now that I have toddlers, there is no way I am making the 11 hour journey anytime soon.  So holidays have depressed me because they are forced upon me and I am reminded that while I am with my family (husband, children, in-laws) that I am missing out on experiencing this time with my childhood family.

This Sunday, the Sermon title was "For those who are Disappointed with Christmas"; the third in the Advent series.  Typically in the liturgical year, the 3rd Sunday of Advent is used to talk about the "joy".  People either do this by talking about Mary at the Annunciation, or the Magnificat, joy that the coming of Christ as a babe signifies to the Israelites, and others.  After numerous years as a church going Christian, and as a former preacher, one wonders how the spirit of the season (any season) can be recaptured, reinvented and brought forth anew without rehashing too much, or being too cliche. 

This sermon was preached about John the Baptist, often a topic/approach to an Advent sermon, but was one that I had not heard before.  (One of the reasons that I love going to this church despite the 45 minute drive into town..). The Text was based on Matthew 11:2-11.  John the Baptist was in jail after challenging Herod being with his brother's wife, and he sends a question to Jesus "Are you the Expected/Coming One or should we look for someone else?"  This was a surprising question because John was a) a cousin to Jesus, b) the forerunner for Christ as Messiah.

Darrell Johnson posits that John was disappointed because he had a certain expectation about what the Messiah was to be like, to act like or do, and Jesus basically replied "I will do things in my own way, not the way that the world thinks it will be done."  John was expecting that the work of the Kingdom would be done with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  John was not seeing the fire and this caused him to doubt.  John believed that the promised fire would come and purge the Earth at the same time as the Messiah's working through the Spirit.  "In John's mind, the Messiah comes and there is a radical purge of the world. and then the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John was disappointed most because he did not hear reports of the fire or cleansing."  

It came to me that I have been disappointed with the Christmas season because I had some unrealistic expectations.  Christmas has always been a time of wonder and beauty, and for the fortunate, good memories of times past.  I don't always feel that warmth or the good feelings.  There is often no snow for Christmas where I live.  Not that I like snow, but a light dusting so there is a "White Christmas" as per the song would be nice.  

Also hubby and I haven't really been able to come up with our own traditions.  Now that we have settled into a house v. a townhouse, and have 2 children, we are working on it.  I have adopted a tradition from a choir member, a Happy Birthday Jesus cake. Of course, it will not be this ornate as my cake decorating skills have lapsed.  But nonetheless there will be birthday cake on Christmas Day, because I want my children to understand why we celebrate Christmas -- that it is not about Santa, and trees, and presents, but about Jesus and the fact that Messiah came to the world.  

Another aspect of Christmas season that irks me is that there is such a build up to it from the commerce arena. (I saw Christmas stuff out before Hallowe'en this year.)  We don't really have as much ga-ga craziness about Easter. This is the irony because Easter is the liturgical end of the season.  Easter is the epitome/fulfillment of the Christian story, and yet perhaps because of the end of the year mixed in, Christmas has more association with change.  The New Year signifies the coming of something different, the time for a new start, when ironically Easter being in Spring really is the symbol of New Beginnings.

Alright, that's enough for now.  I have to go clean my kitchen and figure out about what to bake with zucchini.

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