“What does Christmas mean to you?” A large banner across the front of Calvary Memorial Church asked me that question as I drove alongLake Street recently. (The banner also invited me to answer it at www.christmassurvey.com)
I loved Christmas as a child. At that time it meant presents, decorations, special food and time with extended family. All of these were exciting (especially the presents). At school I learned about baby Jesus and Christmas carols. My family didn’t go to church at Christmas since we weren’t Christian.
When I became a Christian as a young adult, Christmas took on a whole new level of meaning for me. Just as the news is much more significant to you when you know the person in it, Christmas meant much more to me after I (believed) I had a personal relationship with Jesus. Christmas was now about honoring Jesus’ birth. Church had become part of my life and no matter where we were at Christmas, if I could I would slip out for an hour to attend a Christmas service. There I could be with other people who understood Christmas as I did and celebrate it with them.
After my children were born, I wanted Christmas to be as special for them as it was for me growing up. Their excitement over it gave it added meaning for me. It was fun creating our own family Christmas traditions. I enjoyed coming up with surprise presents that would delight my children. I’ve been pleased that we’ve often been able to have extended family with us at Christmas, similar to my childhood Christmases.
I wanted Christmas to be about Jesus for my children, so we’d read the story of Jesus’ birth together. I think it was still mostly about presents. However, I’ve been glad to see as they’ve gotten older that it’s become about the presents they give as well as the ones they receive.
In recent years, my beliefs about Jesus have changed. Christmas continues to mean special family time to me. But I no longer attend a Christmas service unless someone asks me to go with them.
For me the Christmas story is full of symbolic meaning, whether it’s true or not. One of my favorite parts about the story is that God, in the form of Jesus, connected with us by entering our world and walking in our shoes. If we take time to connect with other people that way at Christmas, maybe we can help make their Christmases more meaningful.
Editor’s note: We’d like to invite our readers to submit their own version of “What the holidays mean to me” (Limit of 400 words). E-mail your thoughts to Ken Trainor at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 708-524-0447. We’ll publish as many as we can before Christmas.