Thursday, November 13, 2014

Memories of Christmases Long Ago...

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...
I learned this well-known Christmas tune when I was just a child. Yet, I always wondered what the words meant. White Christmas? Just like the ones I used to know? Tree tops glisten? Sleigh bells in the snow?

Hmmm... what might those words mean? I didn't know! Because... you see, I grew up in the Philippines and all our Christmases were green, sunny and warm!

Christmas Paróls. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Christmas meant decorating our home with these colourful star-shaped paper lanterns, called paról, which we bought from vendors who came knocking at the gate of our house.

Christmas also meant carolers frequenting our house to sing Christmas tunes right outside our gate... many of them children who live in poverty, in hand are their makeshift instruments made from aluminum bottle caps strung on a wire, looking to make a few extra pesos during the Christmas season.

Christmas also meant parties... with special yummy food reserved only for occasions such as birthdays and Christmases. Foods like the famous lechón (roast pig) of Cebu; like the delicious dessert known as food for the godsand of course, the Filipino-style Christmas ham!

Thinking back...
My most favourite Christmas memory hands-down, more than the decorations and the carolers and the food, would be helping my mom shop for and wrap Christmas presents! 

My sister and me, a 70s Christmas!
You see, my parents owned a factory back then and there were hundreds of people who worked for them. Each and every one of them were on my mom's Christmas list! 

Come Christmas-time, my mom became Santa! She made sure to start her list early and checked it twice... and oftentimes, I was her trusty elf... er, I mean assistant! :)

After the shopping was all done, she and I would stay up late for at least a week and wrap presents. I remember taking the time to wrap each present nicely, making each one special with a bow and hand-labeling each card.

As a young child, to me Christmas became all about giving... and not at all about getting.

Every Christmas, I looked forward to the big Christmas party where all of our factory workers and their families were invited to! My favourite memory of those parties is when I got to help hand out the Christmas presents!

When I was a teenager...
My parents moved our family to Canada... right before the Christmas of 1988. That was when I experienced my first white Christmas... when I finally knew what glistening tree tops look like and what sleigh bells sound like!

My two younger sisters and I. Our first white Christmas!
That was also when Christmas became all about getting.

It was so easy to get sucked into the commercialization of Christmas that this first-world society so readily promotes.

The flyers. The sales. The promos.

The crowds. The hustle. The bustle.

And Boxing Day. Yes, that! Upon arriving in this country a mere few days before Christmas, we were quickly schooled about Boxing Day... not about its true origin and meaning, but about its commercialization and how we are to participate in it!

It's The Day everyone goes shopping, we were told. Bargains and amazing deals will be hard to resist, we were told. You have to beat the crowds and head to the mall early, we were told.

And that we did. We did what we were told. We didn't question one bit where the true meaning of Christmas disappeared to...

Even after hubby and I got married... after our girl came along... even after our boy joined our family, we did Christmas no differently. We were totally sucked into the whole commercialization of Christmas!

Oh yes, all those years we packed Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and volunteered at dinners for the homeless... but at the same time, we also used Christmas as an excuse to lavish extravagant gifts upon ourselves.

We weren't celebrating Christmas meaningfully and we weren't giving generously. Sadly, Christ wasn't at the centre of our Christmas. 

But God's grace...
It relentlessly pursued us and slowly changed our hearts. Today, Christmas for our family looks much different than the Christmases of long ago. It has done a total about face. We now celebrate an upside-down Christmas...
Be brave enough to return the fake CHRISTmases and only bring home the real one that has CHRIST at the center of it.
Be brave enough to return any Christmas too small for the size of your soul — and only wear a Christmas large enough for real joy.
Be brave enough to turn Christmas upside down because this coming Christ ushered in the Upside Down Kingdom where
less is more and
weak is strong and
least is greatest and
consumers can get consumed and
giving is greater than getting.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.
The true meaning of Christmas...
It has come to stay at our house... and we are grateful that it has! It is upside-down, it is counter-cultural, it is cross-shaped. It is how Christ-followers are designed to celebrate Christmas!

It is looking more like the Christmases from my childhood days... where consumers aren't consumed and giving is greater than getting; where doing justice and loving mercy is at its core and where walking humbly with God is key.

Friends, will you join us? 
In making Christmas an upside-down one this year? Here are a few ideas...

:: Buy a Gift of Compassion and give it as a Christmas gift. {Hint: this is a great teacher gift!}
:: Check out Advent Conspiracy... because Christmas can still change the world.
:: Give the Gift of Mentorship... a gift for our friends at UrbanPromise, a gift that will keep on giving!

Because... one of the above idea just might transform someone's dark Christmas into one that is merry and bright... in turn making your Christmas truly merry and bright!

Your calling is radically this: Gloriously hijack every darkness with grace.
To love mercy and do justice and follow Christ means to be The Revolutionary Guerrillas of Grace — radically turning the fallen world Upside Down.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!