Mary, did you know?

I hate that song.

I’m sorry if it’s your favorite Christmas song, but I’m definitely not a fan. Is it new? I think I heard it for the first time last year, and now there are covers of it! Are there really multiple recordings of this terrible ballad?

I can’t get into it because although it’s catchy, I’ll admit it, it’s catchy in a bad way. It’s catchy in the same way “Time” by Hootie and The Blowfish is catchy, and if you know me, you KNOW that is not a good thing. And the other reason I’m just not in support of this wannabe classic is because YES… Mary DID know! The Bible tells us so. I mean, come on. You either know Scripture and you know that an angel comes to Mary and let’s her in on the most giant of giant secrets before she turns up as a virgin, unwed mommy, or you don’t know Scripture and you probably figure that Mary had to have some idea that her growing belly was not cancer, but either way… the answer is yes, Mary knew. So save yourself the melodic rhetorical questions.

But if I had to write a song about what Mary did and didn’t know…

I would say, “Mary, did you know that a huge, fat guy in a red suit would TOTALLY come to upstage your miraculous pregnancy and the birth of your son- the Savior of the World? Mary, did you know that presents would become the focal point of the day we’ll come together to celebrate your son… not your actual son? Mary, did you know that some children can participate in ALL the traditions of ‘CHRISTmas’ and not have any idea that it all started with your baby boy?”

Don’t get me wrong, Readers, I’m sitting in my living room in the shadow of a ridiculously large Christmas tree (one of two in my house), and I have no idea at all how cutting down a tree and bringing it in my house has anything to do with Jesus. There are a dozen or more presents under the tree right this very minute, and Santa hasn’t even visited yet- and he will be visiting our house, don’t you worry. This post is not to shame Christmas lovers. I’m probably the biggest Christmas lover you’re going to find. I love all the crap that my husband thinks is shenanigans. When we were getting rid of our couches and dressers and beds to move across the country with just ONE moving truck, I moved seven large containers jam packed with Christmas decor.

I’m that girl.

But I had to write about this idea because I have to tell you, I’m struggling with it all this year. It’s heavy on my heart this time around the sun. And I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Well, I can a little…

I grew up Atheist, as some of you know. I’ll go ahead and say Agnostic to be a little less aggressive, but the truth of the matter is Jesus was absolutely NOT a part of my Christmas traditions. We didn’t have a nativity scene set up anywhere. Ironically, I do recall that my mom’s favorite Christmas songs- ones we listed to day in and day out, as is still true to this day, from Thanksgiving until reasonably acceptable- we’re Gospel Christmas songs.

Silent Night. Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Joy to the World. Oh Holy Night. You get it.

Thank God (literally) for music or I might have missed entirely the reason for the season, you know what I’m saying?

So, when I married my Christian husband, and was not yet a Christian, his traditions looked a lot like my traditions: Santa, eating too much, cookies, family, and the like.  And so began (or continued) our traditions as husband and wife.

When I was pregnant with my first baby- Cadence- I was saved. That’s a story for another night, but true nonetheless. She was born in October and so her first Christmas was upon us rather quickly, and it went the same as any other Christmas had gone before it. All the presents, all the eating, all the family.

Becoming a believer didn’t really change my outlook on Christmas all that much, other than I knew to be inwardly focused on Jesus much more than I had been before. I started to see this season as more magical, because it was filled with a new kind of peace, joy and gratitude. But as I had more kids, and years of establishing traditions by default started to pile on top of one another, I have found myself now- with a six year old (and a four and a two year old)- wondering if my inward gratitude is reflected enough, or at all, in our outward traditions surrounding Christmas.

I remember sitting at my friend Sarah Linker’s house, with my now-two-year-old sleeping in his infant carseat at my feet, telling me that she didn’t do Santa with her son. At that time, I felt sad for her son. NO SANTA??? My gosh, that was one of the best things about being a kid! All those presents, all the songs, all the anticipation of that special night… when a big fat guy would break into everyone’s house…

She told me that she didn’t want her son to grow up, only to discover that everything she had told him about Santa, and the reindeer, and the north pole, and the elves, and the presents, and Rudolf, and Elf on the Shelf, and the guy at the mall, and the list, and the seeing you when you’re sleeping (ok ok, we get it!), was just a lie.

She didn’t want him to wonder for one second if everything she had told him about Jesus- all the details and stories that sometimes seem impossible to believe- were also untrue.

To-freakin-ćhe Sarah Linker.

Okay, so honestly at the time, although she was absolutely someone I considered to be a spiritual mentor, I just had to nod my head and keep Santa and all the magic locked safely in my heart. I wasn’t giving up Santa.

It’s kind of like when Charlotte on Sex and the City converts to Judaism and has her last Christmas tree and the whole shebang. It’s a thing, man. It’s hard to give up the magic of something you’ve loved about growing up.

All that to say, my heart hurts this year. Not because I don’t think you can do Santa right, where it doesn’t conflict with Jesus. I believe you can. I’m trying desperately to do that this year. I’ve been spinning the Santa thing (this is really the first year my oldest is old enough to start to wonder about how this guy does all this crap in one night) in a way that says Santa is a servant of God who helps us all remember the joy and the blessing of Christmas. God gave us the BEST gift, one we’ll never be able to replicate. Santa is but one servant who helps us celebrate the GIFT of Jesus.

I’m considering sending the Elf back to Santa this year with a note telling him that although we appreciate his service of spying on us over the years, we’re going to pray and ask God to help us behave this year, and when we don’t, we’re grateful for the forgiveness He gives us- because that’s an amazing gift as well.

My pastor at church this past week gave a great message where he pointed out that we’ve managed to take the GOOD NEWS out of Christmas. This is a celebration of the best news ever. A savior is born. God has come to earth as a baby, so that He can be in relationship with us, know us, and die for us, because we just can’t seem to get this thing right. And no matter what we do, He has already erased it. There is no earning it, there is no deserving it, there is just endless mercy and unimaginable grace- there is just Jesus. My goodness, that’s good news. And instead we’ve come up with…

“You better watch out! You better not cry! You better not pout!”

And instead of the peace of knowing that God is with you always, we’ve come up with…

“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes!”

I mean… that’s not good news, that’s frightening. That’s creepy! If this is supposed to be a song about God, I don’t want any part of that God…

But it’s not about God, it’s about Santa, right?

Isn’t that interesting though? Somehow, we’ve allowed this whole thing to become so very CLOSE to God (when you get down to the core of it) and yet, it’s just sooooo far at the same time. I might go so far as to say that it’s one of the better deceptions I’ve ever seen…

I mean, I bought it. Like literally… I purchased it all this year. Like a lot of money.

Again, I have no plans to abandon the status quo that is ingrained in me and now in my kids. I don’t think it’s evil, I just find it interesting. And upon talking with my husband about it, we’ve decided that we didn’t even realize just how much we were allowing the ‘magic’- and I’m SO ABOUT THE MAGIC- to suck us in and AWAY from the REAL magic of the season. We’ve failed to make this about not just gifts, but THE gift. And with all that in mind, we’re making subtle tweaks this year. We went to see The Star AND The Polar Express. We’re talking about Jesus a LOT more this year. We’re going to start Christmas morning in the Bible, telling the REAL story of Christmas. We’re going to explain why Santa brought all these gifts- to remind us of the BEST gift we’re ever going to get- and to help us celebrate that.

I don’t know where you’re heart is on all this, but I just had to share mine. Because as I mature in my faith, I find that my… perspective… is ever changing. Wouldn’t you know?


PS. On the way home from the movie The Star– which is amazing by the way (and does feature the stupid song titled above)- I was asking the kids what their favorite parts were. Cadence was reciting most of the story of Jesus’ birth, in great detail, and when asked, she responded that Christmas was the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

I asked, “Where was Santa in the movie? How does he fit into all of this?”

And without hesitation she said, “He’s one of the wise men, silly. He brings the gifts!”

So if you think I’m over thinking this whole Santa thing… Cadence agrees.

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  1. Pingback: More on Mary… | Thoughts out loud

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