a very disappointing christmas

“I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised never came to pass.”

There is a difference between the commercialized Christmas and the one we should be celebrating. When we were young, we were taught that Christmas was a time to receive, despite our parents efforts to tell us otherwise. We might have experienced some sort of brief satisfaction from our magical Christmas mornings, but it inevitably resulted in disappointment. Parents believe they are doing what’s best for their children and making them happy…but I assure you that material happiness is the most depressing kind.

My husband and I often think about how we are going to handle future Christmas’ when we have children of our own. I often experience the longing to give my children that magical experience of Christmas morning—but I will have to fight everything that I’ve been taught to give them what I truly want to give them—which is little to nothing (in the physical sense). I want them to find beauty and happiness in moments and in people. I want them to find happiness in experiences. All of which is not easy to do in the society we live in, where happiness comes from things.

I am still struggling with this idea of material and non-material happiness myself. I’ve come to expect that Christmas is about me and I wish I had been taught differently—it’s hard to unlearn material dependency. I don’t blame my parents or any other parents for that matter—I admit how difficult of a lie we are fed and how difficult it can be to break away from it.

Despite the difficulty, I would like to urge new or soon to be parents to fight against the convincing lie of material happiness and to refrain from introducing it to your children as well, even if it feels like you are robbing them of their joy. The truth is, the day after Christmas is likely the saddest day of the year for most children. It seems this is because material happiness is like a drug: it gives you a short-lived high that wears off and makes it difficult to truly appreciate reality without that high. We begin to learn that happiness only exists in the moments of receiving and doesn’t go further beyond that. Only until we go back to our normal lives and begin to expect happiness in little things do we feel more satisfied and feel a truer sense of contentment.

(An article from The Atlantic called “Buy Experiences, Not Things” talks more about why material happiness doesn’t quite measure up to experiential happiness.)

I don’t need to convince you of this truth because most of you already know that materialism isn’t healthy, but that recognition doesn’t mean we stop our materialistic tendencies. Just because I know materialism won’t make me happy doesn’t mean I won’t succumb to the lie in order to make the purchase. The same is true with parents—just because they know it isn’t the truest form of happiness doesn’t mean that they will stop showering their children with gifts on Christmas for the sake of our child’s happiness. We are wrong on two accounts: Christmas is about far more than a child’s happiness, but even more so, if we are desiring to make them happy, we should do so without using gifts.

Christmas is about Jesus and the indescribable joy of His coming, bringing peace and hope that reach far deeper than anything we experience in our shallow, materialistic world. With that in mind, there is no disappointing a child on Christmas.

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

when life gives you lemons

“Whichever he adopts, you main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, where Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favor of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.”

Human weakness is the main theme addressed in the above quote, (for those who have never experienced The Screwtape Letters before). We are so focused on these minute details in life and want to fight for them as if they are our religion. We establish our religious beliefs by first evaluating them against the standards of our already determined political beliefs. This is not just true of Christians or other religious believers, this concept of the “cause” as C.S. Lewis mentions, is the cause of much unnecessary hatred among all people.

We live in a world where morality is confusing and all the lines are blurred. Instead of accepting this, we try and establish a road map of our world and begin highlighting all the roads we need to avoid. We then put all of our focus on why we are avoiding these roads and traveling on the others. We love the law and find comfort in it because it gives us rules to follow, but it only traps us by giving us a false sense of security in achieving righteousness or perfection.

Living it not so much about avoiding roads as it is just driving conscientiously. Freedom comes when we recognize that only Christ can help us navigate them—our deliberate persistence and arrogance in believing we can figure it out on our own only creates more road blocks.

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