I know not all of us got to celebrate Christmas much in our former churches, but I was recently reminded of how we celebrated growing up… and of some of the sneaky things I did to celebrate even with the multitude of Christmas prohibitions in my former church.

Christmas is a very special time of year for me now… I left my former church just a couple weeks before Christmas two years ago and Christmas activities were the very first that I shared with Trinitarians that year. In participating with them, I regained more than a little hope.

Anyhow, some of my favorite memories:
We’d asked for ten speed bikes one year growing up, but my parents really didn’t have the money for them. (I don’t think I’ve ever had a brand new bike, to this day. But at that point, we’d had hand-me-downs, and the bike I was riding at the time had been Mom’s when she was my age.) Mom and Dad locked us out of the basement that year, and we tried and tried to sneak a peak at and eavesdrop on what might be happening there. Christmas morning, we got the bikes we wanted. Mom and Dad had found some bikes being thrown away, took them home, and spent days cleaning and repainting them and rebuilding the pieces into “new” shiny bikes for us. That was the best present I ever got, I think, but it wasn’t the bike that meant so much, it was the excitement and curiosity leading up to them, and the fact that they were built with so much love.

In Pentecost, we were advised strongly against Christmas trees. After I moved to a new church, we were told that nativities could be idols and that trees were absolutely pagan and had some very obscene roots. Christmas music, for the most part, was also “worldly”. The only Christmas song generally sung at church was the chorus of “Joy to the World“. Yet I nearly always snuck lights up around the house, set out Christmas cards, lit Christmas-y smelling candles and sometimes brought in some evergreens of some sort… just not a “Christmas tree” per se. (It’s only a tree if it’s upright with ornaments on it, right?) And later, I started decorating with snowmen, because less had been said against them and I could leave them out through February. As long as I didn’t have visitors in the snowmen rooms, at least.

Two years ago right before Christmas I left my former church. That year and every year now, December is filled with seasonal activities… live nativities, “Journey through Bethlehem”, Christmas songs at every church I visited, Christmas trees, wreaths, lights, parades, Christmas music and Christmas movies… Christmas means a whole lot to me, and the ancient words, “For unto us is born this day… a Savior” have taken on new beauty.

This year, again, I’ll celebrate. Celebrate the birth of our Savior 2000 years ago, and celebrate His rebirth in my life 2 years ago, as well. It’s a most wonderful time of the year!