"Christmastime" is a song by my favourite singer about this "too much" time of year. It talks about the commercialisation of the season - and includes the sound of a cash register as part of the music. I've long felt Christmas is way way too comical - oops I mean commercial. So what is it about?
Now those who are expecting me to say it's about Jesus would have been on the ball a while ago - but in fact we probably have views more in common than I share with most Christians.
For a start Jesus was probably not born in winter - there's enough to suggest that without digging too deep - although others I respect suggest that maybe he was. It seems those who have looked into it feel that September is more likely. And what about all the things we associate with Christmas? Well without going into each one in detail, most have been adopted from common, often pagan or commercial backgrounds.
Sure the story of Jesus birth is sometimes in there as well - and we don't have any other time to remember that. But nowhere in the Bible are we told to remember this. Sure we cannot help but remember it - and without Christmas there's no Easter. But while Easter is recognised (along with it's Jewish counterpart passover on which it occurred), not so Christmas.
So when people talk about putting Christ back into Christmas, he was never really in it in the first place. But if that's the case, what is Christmas? Well ignoring the commercial aspect, it seems that it is primarily a family time at the end of each year, leading into the new year. It is obviously different between the hemispheres, but reconnecting with family and friends is the common thread. According to my daughter who spent two Christmases in China, even China recognises Christmas, albeit without Jesus. And for my fellow Christians who choose to remember Jesus at this time, I don't see a problem - just recognise that even other Christians don't necessarily share your views.
What about those who have no family or close friends? Those are the people who surely need bringing into our celebrations.
And being aware of how commercial Christmas has become, what should we do about it. Children waking and bounding out of bed to see what they've received, whether from Santa or not, is a joy (unless you're among the many without). But when we see pictures of parents overdoing it (I saw one where there were literally hundreds of parcels per child), that makes me very uneasy.
For us, our children are grown and and finances have shrunk - so it's not such an issue. But people take different approaches to this. As an example, one family I respect tries to spend more on the poor than they do on themselves. So they might buy a sponsorship to a third world family or project. There are many other examples.
So feel free to enjoy your Christmas without feeling guilty - as long of course as you're not engaged in illegal or immoral activities.