Sunday, November 29, 2009

I See... When Christmas Begins

When does Christmas begin at your house? For most of the retail world, it begins on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. Some families abhor the commercialized nature of the holiday, and therefore wait two-three weeks into December before pulling out the tree and decorating the house with Christmas trinkets. For many fulltime missionaries, especially those totally consumed in saving souls and laboring in far-off lands where Christmas never arrives, the holiday doesn't happen until the night before, when they suddenly realize that tomorrow morning will be the time to commemorate the birth of the Master they serve so unselfishly. For the average monetized American kid hyped up on the mental steroids of consumer-driven hedonism, Christmas never comes soon enough.

In our house, Christmas doesn't just “start;” it explodes. It is not uncommon for me to leave a mild-mannered home for the rock pile one December morning, and return in the evening to a virtual winter wonderland awash in a kaleidoscope of green and red and white decorations adorning every free surface of our home, representing both the legend (Santa and snowmen and candycanes and elves and reindeer with red noses and sleighs and..) and the spirit (mangers and wisemen and shepherds and babies in swaddling clothes and...) of Christmas. Fortunately my wife saves putting up the tree for me and decorating it for the family.

The Christmas season officially starts in my heart on the first Sunday in December when I enjoy the privilege of joining other like individuals in a Messiah “sing along.” It was Isaiah's messianic prophecies of the Savior's birth, life, and resurrection put to Handel's music that converted me to the gospel as a teenager too many years ago, and I thrill to re-live those critical moments almost every early December since then. The “voice of him that cryeth in the wilderness”cries out to me. Every hallelujah sung sends the excitement of a grateful Christmas surging through the spiritual veins of my soul.

I know of a family that has a Christmas room in their house. It is a room where the tree is always up and lighted all year-round, and includes all the green and red and gold and white ribbons and decorations that belong to the Christmas season. Obviously, they have no young children still in the house- that would be torture for both parents and children. Their lives reflect, however, the values and the gospel of the Christ child's birth they honor all year.

It made me think. Maybe the question should not be, “when does Christmas begin,” but “why does it have to begin at all?”

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