Christmas in a Brown Paper Bag
There's not a Scrooge bone in my body, so don't take this as an attack upon this festive season. I get Christmas goose bumps in early November and love to celebrate the holiday to the max. Still, there's a nagging concern about how we celebrate it. I am increasingly aware that Christmas is too much, too many, too fast, and too harried. We wind up spending money we don't have, to buy things we don't need, to impress people we don't like. As I get older (hopefully wiser - not grumpier), I've concluded that less is more. I like pepper, but too much makes the stew hard to swallow. I'm a fan of Christmas, but more doesn't mean better.
I've become an advocate for a simple Christmas. Christmas in a brown paper bag. I looked up the word "simple" in my dictionary and discovered that the definition of simple isn't. There are layers to its meaning and all of them can instruct us about Christmas. Here's what I found.
Simple means "Plain" Beauty does not need to be adorned. It can stand on its own. Our Christmas celebration often has that "too much makeup on" appearance. We have coated Christmas with tinsel, songs, traditions, parties, and snowy memories. Frankly, the embellishments we've added can detract from the plain loveliness of God's grace.
Simple means “Singular" A simple Christmas is uncomplicated with secondary matters. Not only have we heaped upon Christmas a ton of tradition, we've expanded it to include a swarm of intentions. Family reunions, office parties, choral performances, church programs, community involvement, winter vacations, gifts for the mailman. None of them are wrong, they're just not central to the season.
Simple means “Innocent" Christmas should be innocent, without false motive, guileless. When the mall shouts that a plasma TV would make that perfect Christmas gift, I feel conned. Merchants have to sell something but when it's done under the guise of Christmas, the season's innocence is lost. And of course, when I'm obsessed about what's under the tree with my name on it, my innocence is lost.
Simple means “Common" Plain, singular, innocent, and common. A simple Christmas is a daily experience. No solitary day can hold the peace and joy intended to extend throughout the year. We put enormous pressure on a single day and crash into January doldrums when Christmas wasn't all we expected it to be. A simple Christmas sees enough good news to last throughout the year.
Obviously, our celebration of Christmas doesn't rest on the dictionary. It does grow from the gospel narrative. There you'll find it as plain as a manger, as singular as the Saviour, as innocent as a babe and as common as "great joy for all people.” "For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord!” When we stay focused on that, we make Christmas “easy, straightforward”— simple.