Is it really ‘The most wonderful time of the year?’

Published 8:03 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We were talking about Christmas in a recent Bible Study and laughing at how the holiday season is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” yet it was really the most stressful time of the year.

I don’t know if that is true; whether it is the most stressful time of the year, but it is certainly a time when the pleasures that we sing about in all those jingling, jangling, joyous Christmas songs turn into chores that we have trouble getting around to.

For instance, how many of us have all the time we would like to “haul out the holly, put up the tree, and deck the halls, fa-la-la-la-la!” About the only fa-la-la-ing I get around to is falling down because of the pace of running around.

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Christmas is supposed to be a great time of the year, but, quite honestly, it’s not the same as it used to be. Or is it? Have we always had the blinders on when we think about Christmas? Have we always made it out to be something that it’s not?

Maybe it’s because I have grown older and my memories of Christmas have suffered just like every other memory I have. Or maybe there have been changes in this wonderful holiday. Well, everything changes so how has this most wonderful time of the year changed?

First, the Christmas season itself has grown much longer than it used to be. Remember when Christmas began after Thanksgiving? Now, the stores have hardly raked off the Halloween candy from its shelves before it fills those same spaces with Christmas decorations and chocolate-covered cherries.

Poor Thanksgiving. It almost seems like a nuisance as families gather for that one day to fill themselves with all that food and football games. Then it’s on to the stores for the Black Friday Christmas sales.

Just a short time ago, decorations for stores, cities and towns, and homes waited until the Thanksgiving holiday was at least comfortably digested before they appeared. Now, as one of my favorite newspaper comics character Snuffy Smith used to say, “Time’s a wastin,” as Christmas decorations and plans appear earlier and earlier.

It would not surprise me (and I’m sure it’s already happened somewhere) but soon to come is the Christmas sale that begins directly after the Fourth of July.

Which brings up another definite change that has occurred regarding Christmas and nowadays. This one is not going to shock anyone, but the commercialism of Christmas has grown so much that it seems to be the primary focus of the holiday.

To be sure, there has always been a certain amount of commercialism to Christmas. When I was a young boy in Pelham, before the big boxes (malls and Wally World) took over, there was a very nice commercial area in the town. I would think the square of Bainbridge would have been the same.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, the stores would accommodate the public and their Christmas shopping by extending their hours. For as long as I can remember, Christmas has always fought the battle of commercialism. But only in the last decade or two has it lost by leaps and bounds.

The Bible says that we have all fallen short and I can remember when my daughter was determined to have Santa bring her a Barbie Soda Shoppe. She was only 3, I think, but that’s what she wanted and I called every mall toy store between Nashville, Tenn., and Atlanta, Ga., to make sure she got it. She did!

It’s not enough for our children and grandchildren to be showered with toys and gifts throughout the year. Christmas must be a special time and special doesn’t mean anything but more, bigger and better toys. I’m sad to say that some of those toys and gifts for which we pay our hard earned money fail to bring about what Christmas really means.

I have brought up two changes in Christmas that all of us would probably acknowledge. We spend too much time and money on Christmas. Those changes have not made the holiday more meaningful; in fact they have made it less meaningful. They are good examples of when more of something is not better.

The last change that I have seen in the celebration of Christmas does not have anything to do with expansion, but with contraction.

Christmas begins with Christ and, instead of getting more and more of Christ; we seem to be getting less and less. That’s the change that is most dangerous and if we continue down the road we are traveling, we can expect that we have seen the best days of Christmas. We can’t have a more meaningful holiday if we eliminate the real reason for the holiday. After all, what is the first syllable of the word Christmas? Christ. We had better watch out. One day we may wake up and all we’ll have is Santa. Santa is no match for the real reason for the season.

A longer time with fun and frolic will not take the place of a Savior who is forgotten. All the profits in the world will not soothe our souls and spirits like the Promised One whose very purpose for coming is pushed aside. All the lights on all the trees, rooftops and front porches will not brighten our world like the One Who was the Light of the world. It’s the most wonderful time of the year because of the baby born in Bethlehem, not the cabbage patch kid made in Cleveland, Ga.

I’ll end with a favorite phrase of mine, which has nothing to do with Christmas. The phrase is “the tail wagging the dog.” Sometimes we think that we don’t have anything to say or do about what’s happening around us. Christmas is a runaway train and we just have to get on board or get run over. Christmas is the tail and we are the dog.

You can let the tail wag the dog if you want, but I would rather celebrate Christmas over Xmas any day.