It has been a few years since we last put up a tree, exchanged gifts and participated in the rest of the holiday madness associated with Christmas. Once we realized that the traditions we grew up with were not pleasing to the Father it was with satisfaction that we came home from that year’s Hanukkah event and placed our tree on the curb for the trash pickup. The relief from the burden that Christmas had become was almost instant. So, it is with a bit of irony and surprise that I find myself being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past this year. And, somewhat like Scrooge, I find myself searching for the true meaning of Christmas.
It was a big shock for my grown children and the rest of our family that we no longer wished to honor Christmas. I wrote a big letter for the season that year to explain our change of heart. I was certain in the first excitement and enthusiasm of learning the truth that everyone would not only understand, but see the need to examine their paradigms and join us! (see article Butterflies).
I was pretty naïve to think we could pull the rug out from under our children and friends without repercussion. I’ve lost friends and alienated family over it.
My husband and I are actually very lucky…blessed, really. Our sons, while they do not fully understand our change of heart, are still talking to us. We have met many folks who have made this change to Torah-observance who have lost all contact with their families. We know of at least one couple who have not been allowed to speak to or see their grandchildren in five years! The last few years without Christmas for us have been, mostly, pain free in comparison.
Why is this year different? Maybe it is because I recently lost my older brother and have been unable to reconcile with my other brother after a few years of unresolved division. But, for whatever reason, this year, Christmas was difficult for me to ignore. I was flooded with memories of wonderful times with my family and friends. I recall a particular holiday when we didn’t have a lot of money. My parents made sure we had presents, but what I remember are the pencil erasers that were wrapped and hidden up in the branches of the tree. Not extravagant gifts, but exciting for me anyhow.
I remember when I first figured out that ‘Santa’ was really my parents. I was five or six, I think. I had seen a cereal box panel stashed in the kitchen cupboard. It was a picture of a doll that could be gotten by sending in a collection of box-tops. I asked my Mom what it was and she quickly closed the cupboard and answered in such a way that I knew I shouldn’t ask about it.
So, when that doll was under the tree on Christmas morning, I put two and two together. I told Mom thank-you for the doll, and she replied, “Don’t thank me, thank Santa.” I didn’t argue, but it made me smile. For some reason, I saw the love behind the lie, and I was never one of those kids who felt crushed to learn Santa was not real.
I also recall a particular Christmas when our two sons surprised us on Christmas morning. They were about 10 and 12, I think. It became a ‘tradition’ for a few years thereafter, but, that first one was extra special.
We had been walking around in downtown San Antonio the day before. Both the boys had been whispering and chatting together. It was a great day to be a family, and our son’s were conspiring to bless us!
The blessing was that they got up early to prepare a meal for Mom and Dad! Breakfast in bed!
We were served with hand-made menus, and our boys carried in pencils and pad to take our orders (with jaunty Santa hats on their heads)! We made our orders and waited for the meal! It was all delivered to us before we even got out of bed that morning, and before a single package had been unwrapped! To this day it is one of my most cherished memories.
All of these memories, and more, were poignant reminders of what we no longer enjoy. The Ghost of Christmas Past was working overtime.
While it was easy to remove the artificial tree from our premises, the ornaments were not as easy to part with. I am not a particularly sentimental person, but we had always made a practice of getting an ornament when we traveled on vacation, or to new assignments. The ornaments were varied, and mostly reflected our interests. They were much harder to remove. It was over a year before they left our house. I never looked at them again, I knew I could not.
I also have always loved music. It is a personal tradition for me to sing in a chorus whenever I can find one. Holiday music was a big part of my life. Now, the remaining tradition that I feel okay about participating in is singing in Handel’s Messiah. Although it is often paired with either Christmas or Easter, the music is timeless and scripture-based. Whenever there is a do-it-yourself Messiah around, I will make an attempt to be there to sing.
It was a lonesome week at home this year. We spent a whole weekend with our ‘family’ celebrating Hanukkah, and that was great! But, when we got home I was flooded with memories of Christmas past. I was melancholy this year.
I don’t want to suggest that we could ever return to the traditions that we used to do. That’s the one thing that I am sure about. Once you really see the truth it becomes impossible to take that up again, regardless of the memories attached. And, I think, that is where my melancholy comes from.
I am so sad that there is so much ‘good’ tangled up with the ‘evil’ of Christmas. No wonder it is a stumbling block for people! I used to be one of those folks who would be offended if someone said, “Happy Holidays!” No! It was “Merry Christmas…He was the reason for the season!” I truly believed that, and I know that there are many sincere folks that are right in that same place today.
How do we untangle ourselves from that? How can we hang onto the important things from the season (love, family, generosity, fellowship, song, reading the story of His birth), while understanding that the traditions we inherited are rebellion against our Father?
In many ways the Christmas tree is a dead-ringer for the Tree of Good and Evil. Many of us partake of the ‘good’ side of the tree. We see the beauty! The presents we pile underneath it are good too, aren’t they? We see them as ‘good’ just as Eve saw the apple as ‘good for food!’ But the fact of the matter is it was not for her to eat. The Father told them they should not determine for themselves what kind of tree to eat from.
So, the irony is that not only is the Christmas tree a metaphor for the Tree of Good and Evil found in the Garden but, the spirit of the air has upped the ante! Now the tree is associated with fun, and food, and family and ‘stuff” with a liberal helping of the Messiah being the ‘Reason for the Season” thrown in to justify our traditions!
We (most of us) have tasted that tree, and it holds a lot of good stuff! And now that we have tasted of it, we are having a hard time backing up and letting the Father be the One who gives us good gifts! We want to do it all ourselves! We want to ‘sprinkle the dust of Christianity’ on a pagan practice and expect that He will be okay with that.
So, this week I am feeling the sorrow and anguish that most people want to avoid. That’s why it is so hard to share what we now understand this time of year. Once we take in the reality, the fantasy-land traditions we love and grew up with have to be set aside. That’s hard to do! It’s painful from a personal stand-point.
If we are willing to accept the pain of parting with what we have invested so much time, money and memories upon, can we find a way to hold onto the weightier matters? Just as I did when I learned that Mom and Daddy were Santa, we need to cut away the lies and hold onto the love and good-will that hides behind the ritual we call Christmas. We must retain what is good, and abandon that which is displeasing to our Father. Is that possible?
Many are quick to say that He knows our heart, so it really doesn’t matter how we celebrate. That it is a matter of the heart is absolutely true! The question, then, becomes: Do we have a heart to please Him?
If we do want to please Him, what does that look like? I’m not getting into a discussion on how Torah-observance is (mistakenly) construed as trying to earn our own salvation. I’m cutting to the quick. If we want to honor the Father and honor the Son, how do we do that?
Yeshua said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” The Father said, “Do not learn the ways of the heathen and say you do them for me, it is an abomination.”
So: Is Christmas an abomination? Is it the tree of Good and Evil? I think we all know the answer. The next question is: Are you going to listen to Him or the Ghost of Christmas Past?
If we choose to honor what our Father has given us, can we still keep the good-will and love for our friends and family in our heart? The upshot from A Christmas Carol is not the holiday itself that Scrooge learned to keep. It was a change in his heart. He learned to offer all year long the love and generosity commonly associated with Christmas. Isn’t that better than a once-a-year frenzy to keep a tradition that was never instituted or commanded by our Father in the first place?
Is it too difficult to replace the once-a-year tradition of men with the seven feasts commanded by our Creator? Now that we have tasted from His Tree of Life (Torah) the answer is easy. The difficult part is learning to place the Ghost of Christmas Past in its proper perspective.
May we all learn to honor the Father as He wishes and abandon that which is a lie. It is just like learning that your parents love you by letting go of Santa Claus.