Remember: Christmas is His birthday, not yours
My birthday is December 23rd - Christmas Eve Eve (or as I've heard lately, Christmas Adam!) This had two major effects on my life - a great love of all things Christmas, and a selfish desire to have a birthday at any time but Christmas.
Growing up, Christmas meant spending every evening, from November 1 on, crafting something wonderful with my mom. My sister was too young at first to help (she's 5 years younger than I), so from suppertime until bedtime I had my mom all to myself. We made Chrismons by the dozens, and even had a Chrismon tree in our home for many years. [Chrismons are specific symbols of the Christian faith woven or carved in white and gold. The name stands for Christ's monogram - Chrismon.] We made a whole tree of yarn dolls one year, and hand-painted bread dough ornaments another.
THEN, as we grew closer to the blessed day, we would commence cookie baking !!!! Now, I know I'm biased, but my mom really DID make the best cookies ever! We would listen to Christmas albums from Firestone and Goodyear as we rolled, punched, cut and decorated. The house looked, felt and smelled fantastic.
Through the years, I've tried to duplicate this atmosphere in my own home. At times, I've come close. Yet, I was a single mom, a pastor (we don't get Christmas vacation!) and a poor excuse for both because I stressed so much to attempt to recreate a memory. I never stopped to remember that my mom had a maid. My dad helped out. My mom was a teacher, and therefore didn't have to go to work every day during Christmas.
Thank God for a wonderful little book entitled Christmas is Not Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter. The second chapter was written for me: "Giving Up on Perfection." Much of the holiday stress we undergo is because of our own unrealistic expectations! We are not our moms or our dads; we don't live in their world; we can't be them! We must form our own, realistic expectations for Jesus' birthday.
Which brings me to my second issue with Christmas. More often than not, I received "Merry Birthday" or "Happy Christmas" combo presents. I don't know if it was because everybody was too poor at Christmastime to buy an additional gift or what, all I know is I felt cheated! No one honored me. Birthday parties were impossible because everyone left town to go to grandma's, and no one was around for my birthday.
I think maybe Jesus feels a little like I did - cheated. We put everyone and every thing before Him at this time of year. IT'S JESUS' BIRTHDAY! Shouldn't we give him the first and best gifts we can? All too often, He gets our left-overs. We come dragging the kids to Christmas Services - angry, unsettled, and working our last surviving nerve, and not thinking very Christian thoughts, but at least we're in the building, right?
I'm thinking that might not be the gift Jesus wants for his birthday! Unlike everyone else on our Christmas list, Jesus doesn't want any material things. He wants our time spent in prayer and meditation. He wants us to tend to "the least of these." He wants us to give our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths; and to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. We can't do that if all of our time is spent, and our energy is gone, and our spirits are starving to death for lack of tending.
My church has a special tradition. They take up a Christ-child offering, and challenge everyone to give at least as much as they will spend on their most expensive gift. I challenge all of my readers to do the same. Remember - Christmas is not your birthday, it's His.
• Reach the Rev. Caren Bigelow Morgan, Waxhaw United Methodist Church, at (704) 843-3931