Can I celebrate Christmas without the traditional accompaniments? Can you?
Personally, I'd rather not. There is something comforting about the cookies, the shopping excursions, the festive meals, the decorations. Indeed, to avoid being a Scrooge, we delight in our indulgance in holiday cheer. I love being right in the midst of the merriment.
But is it possible to enter into the spirit of Christmas without the trappings? As economic uncertainty wreaks havoc on the status quo, we may have the opportunity to find out. Maybe we will have the chance to discover what it feels like: to push a grocery cart through the crowded market and be unable to buy baking ingredients; to say no to invitations to holiday extravaganzas; to be without means to send Christmas cards; to enjoy a Christmas tree loaded with ornaments, but empty of gifts.
Tradition is a wonderful thing. It is even encouraged in Scripture. The feast days established for Israel were to be remembered and celebrated annually. These were days in which to prepare the traditional meals and enjoy the traditional ceremonies.
And tradition is a wonderful thing for us; it is right that Christ's coming be celebrated with joy and happy times, with nourishment for the body and soul. Yet, the joy is not in the trappings, the stuff, but in the event itself. When we are forced to do without some holiday garnish we have come to expect, we may then be left to adjust our idea of celebration.
I have read of prsioners of war who were able to keep Christmas in their hearts without any trappings whatsoever. In fact, not only did they not have the garnish, they were underfed, cold and miserable. That isn't the way I want to spend Christmas, but their strength assures us it is possible nonetheless.
We all know that the real meaning of Christmas is God taking on flesh. Maybe at such time we are obligated to endure hardship at Christmas, we can more fully appreciate what it meant to Him to come to earth.
May this Christmas find you enjoying the delightful trappings of the season. But, if not, may you have the courage to celebrate anyway, to reach out for Christmas joy in the event of Emmanuel's coming, whatever stuff may accompany it.