Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas at all, this is a special day to me in one sense because it is the anniversary of many beautiful and important things that I learnt from my parents. Because of the beliefs in the community I was first taught to live within, this season was always a time of heightened sensitivity to the essence of our relationship with God… not only in the ways that I now think are (accidentally) idolatrous… but also in ways that are the substance of all I am thankful for from my parents, ways that are like a river of life to the roots of my values. I find that because of the sincerity I was given these gifts with, I can separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak and celebrate the greatest gift I received on this day of each year.
My parents taught me that nothing in life is more important than closeness to God and doing what He asks from us. My dad actually barely ever reads any books, but he has read the Christian Bible cover-to-cover countless times. My mum is so often reading it, learning from it, connecting everything in her life to what she reads in the pages and hears at church. In December, we always had to wait till New Year’s Eve to get our presents, because my parents didn’t want to distract our focus from the religious element of the holiday. I think for quite a while we didn’t even have a Christmas tree, even though the house was decorated. Instead we spent time at the Christmas services and, at home, my dad had a felt nativity scene with characters and told us the story that he believes is a gift from God in history.
My parents taught me about honesty. We never believed that Santa was real because they didn’t want us to think that they lied to us or to become disillusioned by fantasies turning out to be false. We still celebrated the Dutch Sinta Klauss day on the 5th of December and learnt that he was a generous historical hero.
They also taught me generosity. Almost every year we had people at our table who had nowhere else to go, and sometimes were difficult people to relate with, or invited out of the blue in the morning. This wasn’t easy for them, but they always wanted to show love and make sure people weren’t alone.
In the last few years, they have taught me even more about love than in the years before. It hurts them that I’m not at home for Christmas, even just for the meal, but they have loved me and held their arms, home, and hearts open to me every day of the year regardless. This year they didn’t put up the nativity scene, even though they have shown adamantly that they aren’t willing to compromise on their beliefs, because they knew that if I was home at all during this period it would be uncomfortable for me. My dad tried to convince me a few days ago when I was in our lounge room that the Christmas tree wasn’t actually about Christmas, it was just a decorated tree 🙂 My mum gave me a gentle hug before I went again.
So even though this day is to me either just an ordinary day in God’s creation, or an uncomfortable time away from the people I love and knowing where their hearts and faith are at, completely cutting myself away from that celebration and its nostalgia and significance… I thank God for this day in the Gregorian calendar, December 25, and all the holiness that He has brought out of it by His mercy and kindness in my life. This gift is such a large part of how I know what I know of my Maker, and for my parents to have played such a big role in that is very beautiful; they gave Him the honour He deserves in our lives.