I’ve been really trying to read more lately. Currently I’m in the middles of several books (audiobooks and print) but the one I want to focus on is The Joyful Christian which is a collection of C.S. Lewis’ writings. In it, he addresses numerous subjects, among them were “Christmas and Xmas”
Basically, the distinction Lewis makes is the one between sacred and secular:
Christmas cards in general and the whole vast commercial drive called “Xmas” are one of my pet abominations; I wish they could die away and leave the Christian feast unentangled. Not of course that even secular festivities are, on their own level, an evil; but the labored and organized jollity of this- the spurious childlikeness- the half-hearted and sometimes rather profane attempts to keep up some superficial connection with the Nativity- are disgusting.
C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian: Christmas and Xmas
He brings up a good point, too.
Subconsciously, the receipt of a gift or card always leaves me feeling obligated to return the gesture, whether explicitly expected by the giving party or not. It’s my personal opinion that gifts should never be given with expectations of reciprocity; I don’t give expecting anything in return and if that’s your motivation in giving me or my children or my husband a gift, with all due respect, keep it.
Even something as simple as expecting thank you cards after giving a gift; to expect someone’s gratitude is nothing more than entitlement. Does it hurt if we put effort and thought into a gift and the recipient isn’t as excited or thankful as we hoped they’d be? Yes. That’s just part of the risk of being generous. There is ettiquite, yes. There are such things as good manners. But to presume upon the recipient a response of gratitude for a gift they neither asked for nor earned is unfair, and it insults their autonomy and cheapens the gift as a whole.
I didn’t send Christmas cards this year… This makes two years in a row. Am I being intentionally Scroogey? No. I’m just a pregnant, busy, mama who had to choose between a nice Christmas for my kids OR cards, postage, white elephant gifts, dirty santa gifts, extended family gifts, etc. I said “no” to commercialization this year in favor of some mental peace. My lack of Christmas cards actually was a source of disappointment for me. I always enjoy selecting a beautiful card, writing a thoughtful, personal message inside, and sending them off to bless my family and friends. But recently I have felt that many of the traditions I kept had turned into commercial exploits, obligations, and expectations. That’s not what Christmas is for me.
I’ve seen this on a grander scale this Christmas. I’m not talking about getting or receiving Christmas presents or cards. I’m talking about the ultimate gift: Christ Incarnate.
God gave humanity the gift of salvation through the miraculous birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, Jesus Christ. He didn’t do so with expectations of gratitude, but rather hope of salvation for the world. Christ sacrificed selflessly, willingly, obediently, and with no strings attached. That’s why I celebrate December 25th. My observation of Christmas has nothing to do with the solstice, or yule, or Santa, or the actual date and month of the birth of Jesus. It has everything to do with the incarnation meaning Christ’s life in exchange for mine.
Does God rate our absolute gratitude? Absolutely! But He loves us so much, He’s willing to give us exactly what we want out of life; whether that is to serve Him out of gratitude for the gift of salvation freely given, or if it’s to ignore the gift entirely, and live lives apart from God, separated from His grace (ultimately, this would be experienced as eternity in Hell). God does not force Himself upon anyone and He doesn’t expect our gratitude, (though He deserves it) He simply desires our hearts to be devoted to Him. Being truly generous means giving freely to someone who could never return the favor. That’s what Christ did for us.
Some say the choice between Heaven and Hell is no choice at all. I disagree. The choice is autonomy, or our free will to accept and open and use the gift of salvation with gratitude, or to leave the gift untouched and decline to receive it.
Salvation. That’s the gift I’m most grateful for after a particularly long and strenuous year.
While a part of me is sorry I haven’t gotten around to signing and sending cards, that’s not the be-all end-all of Christmas. I am truly thankful for all of the beautiful and thoughtful cards and gifts I’ve received this year. But I’m not going to feel bad about scaling back in order to keep Christ at the center of my Christmas celebration (and neither should anyone else).
And with that, I wish you all the Merriest of Christmases and a blessed New Year from my family to yours.