In 1970, when I was born, my father went down to the local Goodyear store and bought “The Great Songs of Christmas” album by the Goodyear Tire Company. Adding it to his yearly collection of Christmas albums from both Goodyear and Firestone, I have since listened to those albums countless times over 20+ years of living with my family.
Every Thanksgiving, Dad would pull out the boxes full of ornaments, tinsel, lights… and we would put up the Christmas trees, decorating the house to the sounds of Bing Crosby, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Lena Horn, Anne Murray, Tony Bennet and so many more.
And my favorite song? I guess I would have to say “the Christmas Song” sung by Bing Crosby.
For me, that is how the Christmas season starts… with the carols and the hymns, the music. Hearing them begins to lift something beyond my five senses… mainly, my imagination.
Its funny… because a season that is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Christ starts for me, instead, by talking about chestnuts roasting on an open fire and jack frost nipping at your nose.
Makes you wonder: Could we do without those songs, the carols… could we abandon the mistletoe, the poinsettias, the tree, the lights, all of it… and still celebrate the coming of our savior
Sure we could.
But its hard to imagine Christmas without it. Because it is these traditions that help us celebrate.
The United Methodist Church begins advent with something traditional: its called the Hanging of the Greens. My wife always has a mock look of shock on her face as she yearly exclaims “oh the poor green family is going to hung again”. But ignoring my wife’s wit, I stand back and look at what we do as a church: we put up a tree, we lay out the manger scene (crèche), we hang the wreaths, and light it all up…
Not because we have to, but because we get to. There is nothing inherent in a tree that points to the birth of Christ, but there are few of us that can see a Christmas tree and not remember that we celebrate a birth. There is nothing beyond tradition in a wreath except that it points towards a season. And don’t get me started on how hodge podge our manger scenes always are with both the shepherds AND the wisemen there at the same time, in spite of what scripture tells us.
But … that’s not what matters, is it?
What matters is that all of this… all that we do during the next four weeks, reminds us of what Christmas is about. It reminds us that it is about a child… being born… to save us.
Since the time we were very young children our friends, parents, teachers, and even pastors have tried to help us see Christ in the excitement of a turkey and some mistletoe… which help to make the season bright.
And that is why it is time to imagine Christmas all over again.
Lets shrug off our adult lives for just awhile. Lets stop worrying about what to purchase aunt Gertrude and bickering over which ornament gets placed where… and most assuredly lets table the discussion on where we will eat Christmas dinner at.
Instead, let’s imagine our Christmas this year as something simple and simply apprehensive; full of childlike wild joy as we speed toward a day not filled with gifts, but with peace, love, hope… a day where we don’t find the latest toy in a box wrapped with a bow, but instead find a baby wrapped in a cloth and lying in a manger.
Let us let our imaginations soar at the idea that we need someone to save us and a savior being sent in just the nick of time. And then let us sing about, rejoice in it, revel over it, and decorate everything while we do it!
Because These are the ways we remember and celebrate the coming of the Christ child… through our memories of all the great sights and sounds, smells and tastes of what has happened before. Through our music, through the symbols and traditions we have developed. Let’s imagine ourselves enjoying Christmas as it was meant to be enjoyed.