I've noticed that many parents want to create a magical, special Christmas time for their children. Irregardless of whether or not they "do Santa" (that is a whole other topic!), many people yearn to make a heartwarming place where cherished memories will be created. There is nothing wrong with desiring to create a happy mood in your home as you cozy up for hygge-style festivities. As we swirl candy canes in warm mugs of cocoa together, we can rejoice in the love that we share with our family and friends.
However, there are some traps that we can all fall into.
We can work so hard to create "Christmas magic" for our children (and ourselves) that we miss the point of it all. Even while plastering "Keep Christ in Christmas" bumper stickers on our cars, we can become so overwhelmed, busy, stressed out, or preoccupied with holiday festivities and our "To Do" lists that we fail to cultivate atmospheres of peace, awe, and reverence for Christ in our lives and homes.
We can also fall prey to the idea that we "give Christmas" to our children. I've noticed this particularly among people who don't have much money, and can't afford to lavish gifts on their families or friends as they desire. If you are in this situation, I want to offer you my sympathy and prayers-I can't imagine how difficult this time must be for you. Furthermore, respectfully and in charity, I also want to remind you that your monetary circumstances do not determine whether or not your child "has Christmas." Jesus Christ was humbly born in a stable in Bethlehem. We will continue to celebrate his birth each December, no matter if we are all rolling in money or living paycheck-to-paycheck. Christmas will happen again and again, and we can-and should-celebrate wholeheartedly, even if there are no physical gifts to be shared.
You see, my friends, as noble as our desires may be to create a magical Christmas for our children, we cannot neglect our most important mission: To adore Christ, and to bring our families closer to Him.
Yes, the "magic of Christmas" may fill us with wonder. It can remind us to be in awe of the King of Kings who was born in a stable. However, if we misplace our enthusiasm and good intentions, we can fall into the traps I mentioned above. We need to make sure that "Christmas magic" ultimately leads us to Christ, and always comes secondary to Him. In fact, I wonder what would happen to our largely secular culture if we spent less time and effort trying to create "Christmas magic," and put more effort into helping our families truly delight in Our Lord's birth.
If instead of trying to fit in Mass around a hectic schedule of visiting with relatives, we make Mass the centerpiece.
If instead of adding things to the liturgy in an effort to make Christmas Mass "special" for kids , we show children that the Mass is sacred, holy, and profound (kids are capable of grasping this!).
If instead of rushing out after Mass so that we can open presents and eat food, we stay in the church and pray in Christ's presence as a family.
If instead of fighting to fit all of our Christmas festivities into the weeks leading up to Christmas and on Christmas Day itself, we spread out the celebration among the season of Christmas (which is not only "12 days." More on this later).If instead of setting up a nativity scene as an afterthought and sticking it wherever there's room, we place it in a central area and pray before it together each day.
If instead of spending Christmas preoccupied with presents, we focus on prayer, service, and fellowship together as we seek to live like Christ.
This Christmas, have a warm, happy celebration with your family. Enjoy giving and receiving presents as you recall the greatest gift we have all received, Christ Jesus. Appreciate the twinkly lights that adorn trees, neighborhoods, and parks. Watch movies together and squeal with delight in the magical feelings you share. But above all, cultivate awe for our majestic, humble Lord who gives himself so freely to us. We do not need to overwhelm ourselves in an attempt to make Christmas "magical," because the Incarnation is epic-and we can (and should) reflect on this incredible reality.
"Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life." ~Pope St. Leo the Great, from a sermon on the Nativity