Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fighting For Christ at Christmas -- Combating Secularism

A "Holiday" Quiz

Parents, take this quiz and then give it to your children:
  1. What are you thinking about, what are the "Holiday visions" dancing in your head?
  2. What are you really looking forward to as the "Holidays" are approaching?
My experience as a parish priest is that most answers from our children would be: the toys, gadgets or clothes they want to receive. Most adults would answer the family meal and getting together with relatives and close friends.
In the secular world the answers above merit an "A+." If life has no religious dimension, if God is not a part of personal life, then He will be abstracted from the culture as well. What then is left, except the accumulation of more things? From a Christian perspective however, the answers merit an "F." Remember the words of Christ: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," (Mathew. 6: 21). These words of Christ were actually part of the "Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus expounded on what the Kingdom of God required. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal," (Matthew 6: 19-20). How far we have strayed from the teachings of Our Lord on His Kingdom!
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Some Practical Suggestions
Practical suggestions are always useful. Eastern Christians are well aware that the Advent Season starts on 15 November (about two weeks longer than Western Christianity). Religious Western Christians have a beautiful Advent practice: the Advent Calendar. This tradition has and can be modified for the longer Eastern pre-Nativity Season. One such Orthodox publication to help in developing an Eastern Advent Calendar is by Speier and Finley (2005). Many domestic church families will find this book helpful in constructing an Eastern Christian Advent Calendar. An alternative and fun project for some families would be to modify an already existing religious Western Advent Calendar themselves, with added quotes, from the Old and New Testament Scriptures such as the ones above, augmented with relevant sections of the Nativity icon. An excellent comprehensive list of general Advent resources can be accessed at: http://www.antiochian.org/1132082814.
Family prayer time and discussion of the passages is a beautiful way to prepare for Christ's birth. The meaning of the gifts of given by the Magi (prophesized by Micah) and the giving and receiving of gifts today could be one topic addressed in the Domestic Church.
The quotes from the Church Fathers on the Feast of the Nativity (and the other feasts of the Church compiled by Manley, 1984), may be especially helpful. Some parents may need a refresher course in making such connections themselves. Ask the religious instruction school staff or the teachers in your parish community, or even your parish priest any questions you may have. They may also be a wonderful source for other discussion topics or projects.
Discussing within the domestic church how to keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year would also be in order. Ask the children how to put into practice the often quoted phrase: "it is better to give than receive". This spirit goes completely against the self-centered and materialistic culture we live in. It will probably be an uphill battle but always point to Christ as our model.
When gifts are received, tie this into being thankful and giving glory to God for all things. In this guise children can also be taught how to share what they have been given. Sharing can start first among family members and then extended to others.
The Joy of Christmas
In no way do I want to take away the joy of Christmas, especially for children. The cheer and glee on the faces of children, when they first look at the Christmas tree and the presents is so precious. The words of Our Lord who so loved children, comes to mind:
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." And he laid his hands on them and went away" (Matthew 19: 13-15).
The important thing is to Christify all things. Keep Christ in Christmas. It adds to the joy.
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A personal rule of life I have adopted during this Nativity season is that I let no secular greeting by anyone go unanswered. My responses to secular greetings are given in charity but I too want to witness to Our Lord's Birth: CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
From: Smart Parenting VIII: Fighting For Christ at Christmas -- Combating Secularism by Fr. George Morelli
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles7/MorelliSmartParentingVIII.php

3 comments:

  1. We need to put Christ back into Christmas, and minimize the toys, gifts, and other commercial activities that has changed Christmas from a primarily religious holiday to one that has become too secular.

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  2. I agree with you George. I think of all those years that I participated in this dilution of Christmas, piling toys on toys for my own children. This is not an easy thing to change. It involves not only a shift in our own behavior but in our children as well so they can find the joy in giving. Any ideas on how to make this shift?

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  3. I am always reminded of C.S. Lewis piece on Exmas and Crissmas in Niatirb (n.b. Britain spelt backwards!!)
    entitled A Lost Chapter from Herodotus (Father Sophrony used to recommend Lewis' Screwtape Letters, I am told)

    You might also like these suggestions about the Advent Conspiracy with an Orthodox twist

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