Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hooray for Ballad Meter!

I never got around to blogging this before, but last year I was asked to teach a class on Christ-centered Christmas traditions at a church activity.  Last year was a rough year for me, and since I suspected I wasn't the only one feeling like I could barely keep my head above water sometimes, I really wanted to come up with something for my class that was actually helpful instead of just guilt-inducing.  

Most things seems to suggest that having a Christ-centered Christmas is "simple."  All I have to do is remember each and every day of December to remember to pull out some 3-ring binder full cheesy stories and read one while my angelic children sit still and listen without poking each other or needing to still finish their homework.  Or to gather my whole family around to write and stage our own nativity musical for all of the neighbors, with proceeds to be used in our own elaborate 12 Days of Christmas charitable act.  Or to make lists of all the fabulous good things we intend to do as gifts to Jesus and hand embroider them onto a blanket that we keep track of for an entire year so we can reflect on our failure next December.  All of these could be great ideas if they work for you, but when you're already feeling overwhelmed, they could also be enough to make you collapse into a sobbing heap.

I decided instead to focus on actually SIMPLE things we could do because if anyone suggested one more complicated thing to add to the Christmas season, I was gonna scream.

I started out the class by horrifying all in attendance with my singing voice as I performed this little number:

The Ballad of Carol's Christmas
(to the tune of Gilligan's Island)

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a stressful time
That started on Thanksgiving day,
So listen to my rhyme.

Carol is a mighty busy gal
Who fills her days and nights
And yells at her busy husband to
Put up the Christmas lights.

The Christmas bonus will be used
To buy a 12 foot tree
And a blow up Santa Claus
Riding a Harley, riding a Harley.

Her cards say “Happy Holidays”
But she forgot the stamps.
The ones that show all 8 reindeer
Dressed up like little tramps.

She wants to give gifts to her friends,
Co-workers, neighbors too,
But without time for homemade fudge,
Some candy canes will do.

Now what to get her husband Bob
So he will think she rocks?
No time - just get a gift card or
Another pair of socks.

She has to buy the latest toy
And that would seem just fine
If she didn't have to stand and wait
In a three hour line, a three hour line.

Carol sets the wrapping paper down
In the only open space
With a Barbie doll
And Skipper too,
Potato Head and his wife,
A movie player,
A processor and memory
Here on the kitchen island.

And while she wraps and wraps and wraps
She listens with her ear
To songs about how Grandma got
Run over by reindeer.

Across the post office counter
The presents all get tossed.
If not for the tracking number she got,
The package would be lost, the package would be lost.

Yes, Christmas time was here again
For Carol's family.
They're just too busy to make time
For the nativity.

We all feel pity for Carol.
She has too much to do.
A little too familiar –
Does Carol sound like you? Does Carol sound like you?

O Christmas time, it seems we have
Done all our time permits.
In all the many things we do
This is where Jesus fits?

Amazed at what has happened
Here in this world of sin,
With tears we stop and wonder how
The dear Christ enters in? The dear Christ enters in?

Then, threatening to kick out anyone who suggested something that wasn't simple, we had an open discussion about ways to replace or simplify our existing traditions to be more Christ-centered.  Some of my favorite suggestions (that I remember) included: 
  • Buying/making Christmas cards that say "Merry Christmas" and not just "Happy Holidays," etc.
  • Buying the Madonna and Child Christmas postage stamps instead of the less religious snowman, pinecone, etc. ones
  • Instead of going out as a family to look at Christmas lights, go out to visit a nativity (many churches/communities have really cool live ones)
  • Instead of a big elaborate Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner, have a Bethlehem meal on the floor of figs, dates, olives, goat cheese, nuts, grapes, grape juice, dried meat, honey, fish, etc.  Things that Mary and Joseph might have eaten at the time.
  • Read inspiring Christmas stories for bed time with your children instead of their usual bedtime stories
  • Sing Christmas hymns for bed time songs to your children
  • Listen to Christmas hymns as you go about your activities
  • Giving Christ-centered items out as gifts to friends/neighbors/co-workers, or at least attaching a Christ-centered tag/message ("Joy to the World" pass along cards or even the "Joy to the World" video itself were mentioned) 
Now remember, if you don't already do an equivalent of one of these activities, you shouldn't feel obligated to start doing it.  You can if you want.  But if you're already doing something similar to one of these, why not tweak it a little to be more Christ-centered?  But whatever you do, DO NOT STRESS YOURSELF OUT.  Otherwise I will have failed completely.
I ended the class by having a friend (who could actually make it sound pretty) sing: 
(to the tune of O Little Town of Bethlehem) 

O Christmas time, it seems we have
Done all our time permits.
In all the many things we do
This is where Jesus fits.

Amazed at what has happened
Here in this world of sin,
With tears we stop and wonder how
The dear Christ enters in.

Sometimes you don't need to add more verses to your song, you just need to change your tune.

I don't know how well this idea conveys without actually hearing it.  I'm not a music person, so I'm not even sure how well it worked out in person.  But I'm trying to change my "Christmas tune" to be a little more O Little Town of Bethlehem and a little less Gilligan's Island.

Anyone have any suggestions for simple changes that can be made for a more Christ-centered Christmas? How have you "changed your tune"?

[WARNING:  Same rules apply as the class I taught - KEEP IT SIMPLE.  But since I can't kick you off the internet, instead just know that if you break my rules M and I will mock you mercilessly amongst ourselves.  Be intimidated.  Be very intimidated.]


anitamombanita said...

Nice post. How about using only Christmas related words in Words with Friends? Would that be simple?! LOL...and how about not slaughtering your friends at Christmas time. That would be kind! Merry Christmas!!

Liz H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz H. said...

great post! we always try to watch the First Presidency devotional; this year we even got the kids to watch part of it :)

Stephanie T said...

Great post! I especially like that you didn't say things like prepare early. I am not a fan of having everything prepared for Christmas in September, even though I know many people it works for.

I'm not at all prepared but I try to really open up my schedule starting December 1st and instead of giving friends, neighbors, or ward members cards and gifts I try to do an act of service for them during the month. Which you think might take up more time, but not necessarily. Especially when it might be an afternoon of watching eight 2-4 yr olds or offering to drive their kids to Cub Scouts or pick up something from the store or whatever since I'm going the same way.

And my very favorite is going on a date with my husband to shop for all the presents. It's never boring or overwhelming and we look forward to it every year. If I didn't go with him I would probably spend twice as much money and 4 times as much time.

Leann said...


Stephanie said...

Thanks for posting this! I've been trying to figure out what to do for Christmas Eve dinner this year (since we will be having a big dinner at my grandparents on Christmas, and in the past when we've been far away I just do the big dinner Christmas eve), and doing the Bethlehem dinner is perfect. Exactly what I was looking for.