I don’t expect this post to go viral. I know it will ruffle some feathers…maybe even evoke a few tears among relatives who might feel I’m stealing from them or from our history. Still, the carved pumpkin display in front of Kroger today kinda forced my hand in this matter. It’s time to tell y’all the truth—to fess up. I’m not writing this post to persuade you of anything. This is simply an explanation of me and my life and choices.
And no, this post isn’t about Halloween. I never celebrated Halloween, so it’s not something I lost with “my new religion.” I know not celebrating/celebrating Halloween is controversial in itself, and I do understand the potential for community outreach at that time. It would be a loss to miss any opportunity to win souls. As a teen I attached a homemade tract to only the best bars of candy. I still buy candy in case the kids swarm my door; I’m not about to turn a child away. Even still, this post is not about Halloween. This is a much…a much touchier subject than that.
Last year in late December, I took my youngest daughter on a date to the dollar store. Wait, let me back up a bit. Last year in early December, I took all of my children to the dollar store. They wandered through the tiny aisles while I stuffed pre-planned items into my basket. When we got to the register, I distracted the kids with quarters which they merrily plunked into the gumball machine that dispenses plastic hands. I felt like a big spender that day.
I had five of most things. Of the pinker things I’d grabbed three, and of the bluer things I had two. “Are you filling Christmas boxes?” the checker asked cheerfully. The toothbrushes made that a logical question.
“Not today,” I told her. “Just Hanukkah shopping for my kids.”
Five kids. Eight nights. Less than forty dollars.
There was silence for just a few seconds as she continued to scan my finds. I worried she’d stay quiet forever. I don’t mind silence unless it’s loud. “I’ve been thinking about how Christmas is nowhere to be found in the Bible,” she blurted as if we’d been carrying on a telepathic conversation that suddenly burst into song.
“You’re right! It isn’t!” I said a little too enthusiastically. “But Hanukkah is (that’s the Feast of Dedication),” I added with a grin. She smiled back, then she looked down. Her face quickly processed a hundred expressions, and I watched the wheels in her head spin around. I imagined what she was thinking; perhaps she knew He was Jewish but hadn’t thought of the implications. Then, “You’re right!” she said.
Fast forward to late December. Hanukkah was over, and it was the day before Christmas Eve. On the way to the store I had warned my daughter, “Now, people are going to wish you a ‘Merry Christmas’. You respond however you’d like, but at least say ‘thank you’ and smile.”
The man behind the register was tall and young. Somewhere around twenty-five. He flashed a big smile at Miss C. His eyes twinkled with holiday cheer as he leaned his forearm on the counter. “Are you excited for Santa?” he asked her. She froze with an expression that looked like someone had licked her face, and she stared at me in horror because I hadn’t prepared her for that. “We don’t do…” I started. And “Oh, I’m sorry!” he caught on. We both smiled pleasantly at each other. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next, however, because then (without even the hint of an inaudible conversation) he said, “What winter holiday do you honor?”
“Hanukkah, we like Hanukkah,” I answered. Then, with an exaggerated frown to Miss C, I said, “But it’s over now, isn’t it?” She returned a sillier frown.
Keep in light. Keep it loose. Keep it happy! That’s my motto when it comes to confrontation.
As he continued to scan my purchases (I do a lot of shopping at the dollar store), I stood and wondered why on earth he would assume that we don’t celebrate Christmas simply because we don’t “do” Santa at our house. I grew up keeping Christmas, and there was never a Santa to be seen. There were no elves on our shelves. “Since when are Santa and Christmas inseparable?” I thought. But seeing he was a good ten years younger than me, I figured that he would know. I just stood puzzled until he began to speak again.
“My girlfriend’s family is Jewish,” he said.
That’s when I braced for the worst. I assumed it was an anti-semitic lead-in like, “My best friend is black; so I can insult black people whenever I want.” What he did say was even odder.
“We have kids,” he said (Can I admit I found that a little ironic?). “When she first got pregnant, we were talking about the holidays: they celebrate Hanukkah, and we celebrate Christmas. I told her, ‘Your family can do whatever they want, but our kids are going to be Christians!’ ”
I wore a wide-eyed kind of stunned smile. His exuberance was humorous, and it clearly wasn’t meant as an attack. Worried it might have seemed like an attack, he quickly added with even more spark and passion, “But I believe that we should honor everyone’s beliefs!”
I smiled again.
On the way to the car I kept kicking myself, and I apologized to my daughter. “I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian! Why didn’t I tell him that I AM a Christian?”
She patted me on the back, because she’d heard me say that before. “It’s OK, Mom. It’s OK,” she said. The hardest part of this journey to The Old Ways has been the reaction from fellow believers. I’ve been accused of denying the One most precious to me—and this accusation has not come merely from dollar store checkers.
Jeremiah 16:19 (KJV), says:
O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.’
This is how I’ve spent the past two years: Is it in the Bible? That’s what I want to know. ‘Cause the truth is, we’ve added a lot of things to the religion our New Testament apostles lived, and more isn’t always better. In the adding, we’ve lost some precious things that would connect us to our roots. It’s those roots I want to find because I just want to know my Savior. I want to know the road He walked down day-by-day, and, where possible, I want to walk that road now. He’s the only One to have ever lived who has fully preached the Torah. That’s pleroo, the Greek word we translate, “fulfill.” So, I want to eat what He ate, serve like He served, love like He loved, teach what He taught, and celebrate the days He celebrated. Where’s the crime in that?
Will I fail? I know I will fail! That’s why He had to die. But in my trying to honor His ways, it’s my brothers and sisters whom I have made unhappy. I haven’t denied our Savior because I’ve traded Christmas for the day He gave me: Sukkot (Tabernacles). I certainly haven’t forgotten His death because I’ve traded Easter for the Feast He fulfilled: Passover!
Stories of red, red blood and hearts made white are sweetly told through candy canes. But stories of a tabernacle for a king in the wilderness, a baby king born to tabernacle with the world, and our soon-coming thousand year tabernacle in the heavenly kingdom He’s prepared are so, so much sweeter than that. They’re sweeter because He wrote them. Gospel candy canes and new-birth Christmas trees: He didn’t make that up; WE made that up. That makes it a “doctrine of men.”
It’s in my nature to apologize, and I am sorry for causing offense. I don’t mean to step on toes, and I’m sorry for any walls that my beliefs seem at times to build between us. I hope this post tears those walls right down. I know you’re not upset about the missing Christmas presents from me…I could never afford many, anyway. If you’re upset because you cannot buy for me: you can buy for me whenever you’d like! I’ll still do the same for you. Why should any day dictate generosity? But I think it’s not about the presents. I think it’s not about the tree or the food or the songs… I think it’s about the feeling of being judged, by me or by others, for the way you are choosing to honor your Savior. So as much as I can, I want to put that to rest: I am not the judge.