“With the many dollars that are spent these days for presents, decorations, etc., would the modern-day family feel like it was celebrating Christmas if it had only the meager earthly supplies of the old-fashioned Christmas? . . . ”
Who among us has not enjoyed sitting down and listening to our parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents describe what life was like when they were growing up?
The stories can be quite fascinating, especially when we consider the tremendous amount of change that has taken place over the past three generations or so–from traveling by horse-drawn carriages to soaring through the air in jet planes; from communicating via the telegraph to sending e-mail messages over the internet; and from living in homes without electricity to having every conceivable electrical convenience.
Around Christmas time we might hear the older generation tell us what Christmas celebrations were like in the home many years ago. Those stories may not only be quite interesting, but also very informative as to the focus of past Christmas observances in the home.
Besides the mouth-watering descriptions of special ethnic baked goods of the old country, stories are often told of how very little our forebears had in the way of earthly goods when it came to celebrating Christmas. Both the house and the humble-looking Christmas tree were adorned with homemade decorations such as strings of cranberries and popcorn. As for presents, this writer remembers hearing of a young child in the previous generation receiving just an orange and a dime, or perhaps one inexpensive toy for Christmas.
While the old-fashioned Christmas was short on material possessions, yet in the Christian home it was very often long on a religious emphasis that focused on the birth of the Christchild.
On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the family gathered together to hear the reading of or join in the singing of the Luke 2 account of Jesus’ birth, or the singing of other treasured Christmas hymns and favorite carols. The young children’s part in the family observance included the reciting of Christmas parts and the singing of hymns which they had learned for the festive church service. The old-fashioned Christmas in the home may also have involved the offering of a Christmas prayer, thanking the Lord for the rich and bountiful spiritual blessings poured out upon them through the young Child born of Mary.
What Is The Focus?
With the many dollars that are spent these days for presents, decorations, etc., would the modern-day family feel like it was celebrating Christmas if it had only the meager earthly supplies of the old-fashioned Christmas? How would the children react who are accustomed to receiving so many Christmas gifts?
What is the focus of the Christian celebration in our times? Are there not many cases where families are merely celebrating the giving and receiving of gifts instead of celebrating God’s great gift of sending His only begotten Son into this world for our eternal salvation?
Many of you could very likely relate a family tradition of your forebears where the Christmas celebration in the home focused on the birth of the Christchild, and the emphasis was on praising God for His priceless gift to sinful man. Perhaps some of those special family traditions have been preserved and passed down to the present.
When we go back to that first Christmas night on which the Savior of the world was born, what were the sights and sounds? The temporary dwelling place where the celebrants gathered together was in a crude and lowly animal shelter. The focus of their attetnion and the joy of their hearts was that of a newborn baby who was to be given the name of “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). The words of praise that were uttered that night were truly heavenly, for a host of angels praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Lk. 2:14).
May our Christmas celebrations, whether old-fashioned or not, reflect the spirit of that first Christmas night.
–Pastor Mark Gullerud