jade in the parke

Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Indian born in America's perspective on Christmas, grace and the Risen King

I love all things Christmas, but only after Thanksgiving.

I grew up the only child of a well educated Indian couple who loved all things American. I didn't learn my parents' native tongue at home in order to absorb English better, I had fashionable haircuts (our family's religion was Sikh and one of the hallmarks is uncut hair), took swimming lessons with all of the kids in the neighborhood pool & ate ice cream from the music truck just like everyone in America. It was only natural that when Christmas rolled around we would jump on board. In India, there is a fall holiday called Diwali or Festival of Lights. Our Sovereign God in His divine design has impressed on human hearts the desire to see Light in the darkness.

In India, we like things bright, colorful & glitzy. Indians when in America, if they decorate for Christmas will do the same: Bright, colorful & glitzy. Maybe not all Indians. Maybe just us.

As a child, my favorite decorations were the lush, metallic garland that complemented the colored lights, jeweled toned ornaments glazed with colored glitter, sprayed snow from a can, single silver icicles that I felt should be thrown on the tree in big clumps because I was too lazy to layer a slender strand on each individual branch, wide swaths of batting under the tree providing the scene for my 3D paper Christmas village that I had folded one year and kept bringing out even though smushed and lopsided from being stored. But the piece de resistance was the tree topper: A multicolored, multifaceted spike. Yes, spike.
Did you catch the spike and silver garland!?

Presents were modest

My single father was awesome to provide for me and give me an experience of the cultural American holiday.
A girl and her Barbie (Yes, that's me)  

Christmas dinner was going to a smorgasbord restaurant somewhere in Balmore county (hon) followed by a movie. The years we were invited to a friends' home (okay twice) were the highlight. However, I was left feeling lonely for the deeper meaning of Christmas and for a longing to connect with my extended family that span the globe.

Fast forward to my twenties and I married a young, handsome American man of European mutt descent who was a "purist" and shunned colored lights. I remember visiting his family as his fiance for Christmas Eve and marveled at the Christmas tree with twinkling white lights nestled in a corner of a cozy den with dark wood floors and antiques. Angels and wood carvings and painted nutcrackers lined the stone fireplace. Everything in muted colors of cream, white, silver & gold. Delicate china was laden with course after course as sparkling crystal and candles dotted the table to fill the room with radiant light. What a far cry from an "All You Can Eat" diner or even a nice restaurant as the company full of laughter and kindness made me feel at home.

A rush out the door to the candlelight Christmas Eve service at the family's church felt like we were bundled up in our sleigh as we saw home after home lit up with festive lights (Yes, multicolored) and thick blanket of snow over all. Move over Thomas Kinkade! Step aside, Norman Rockwell! I loved every minute of those days! I never experienced this as a child and it was delightful and not a moment was taken for granted.

Then after church, there was homemade German chocolate cake and some other yummy chocolate delights and the exchanging of gifts. It was a delectable dream made by JADE's grandparents, Nana & PapPap. Okay, let's be honest, Nana created the menu and her vision made this possible. She is an extraordinary hostess and PapPap provided the brawn to carry out her plans. PapPap served quietly with dignity and strength. Oh, how they made it look easy.

The next morning the house filled with scent of tryptophan (aka turkey) and other delectable vittles, extended family came to call, usually a snow dusting would surprise and sometimes carols would be sung. Okay, this is more joy than an only child from a single parent family could handle. If my kids have just have a smidgen of this experience, fond memories would fill their recollection bank to be drawn upon to share with their children.

But to reflect on the advent season and the "Real meaning of Christmas" was easier, way easier in college with devotionals and weekly sermons to guide my meditation and a few gifts to make by hand for close friends & family. Someone else did all of the magical work of creating the holiday memories and I reaped the benefit.

I am at that awkward phase of wanting the beauty of the season for my family (& to buy an equal number of gifts for each kid) and trying madly to balance it with awe and wonder of Jesus' humble beginnings. But a lot of what I feel is a frustration with the commercialization or the stress to shop, cook, clean & create. Each year our traditions ebb and flow with the stress whether moving, surgery, illness,

so do what is your portion for this season. 

Moms are trying to muddle through this with me in the whole wide world of the internet: Some are trying to simplify gifts or traditions, to keep the sanity and the focus on Jesus. Some do that very comical Elf on the shelf thing. Some go all out and do it all. Then, there are those that may feel judged for doing it all. A whole lot of us feel discouraged if we focus on the externals and our devotionals fall flat by the 18th of December as the Christmas parties, colds and last minute presents start to weigh on our mommy brains.

Here's what Paul said in Romans 14:
Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Most of what we do to celebrate Christmas is steeped in pagan traditions: Mistletoe, Evergreen trees, the lights. Early Christians redeemed the holiday back in the day by taking the beauty of God's creation & interpreted it in ways that led our hearts back to the One who made them in the first place. There is no command that you have to celebrate Christmas, so let go of the Christian supermom idea. Guilt be gone. If you love all things Christmas as I do, realize there is nothing wrong with just going for it and creating lovely memories as if it were any holiday & teach your kids to rely on the Risen King. Christmas is fun! 
But realize the point of Him coming in the first place was to redeem His people through His death and resurrection.

Christmas can feel empty when we focus on the externals, and the busyness of the holiday can start to choke out the joy. So we try to simplify (Amen!), but the emptiness can be there during any busy, crazy stressful time in our lives or on any holiday when we lose our Godward perspective. Go ahead and simplify if you want or "Go Big or Go Home" in your Christmas plans. He is at work drawing us to Himself.  So, if you forget to do the Advent readings for a week, or you don't get all of the gifts for every teacher, neighbor or even your own child, there is Grace. Grace to say I blew it and I don't have it all together. I need Thee every hour. If you are reveling in the fun of the season, give Him the glory for it!

Christmas is a lovely time with family enjoying the beauty of a home gussied up, warmth, singing, cookies, giving gifts to each other to show our love as we worship the Risen King.  
Like I should do everyday.

Just like it's the Fourth of July & we worship the Risen King.  

Just like it's Thanksgiving & we worship the Risen King.  

Just like it's Monday & we worship the Risen King.

But, when you get side tracked and you catch yourself yelling at your kids because they didn't clean up their gingerbread house mess or they are only focused on themselves and don't want to give up their unused toys for needy kids. Ahem. Hypothetically speaking.
Or, truthfully, when I give up my devotions or prayer life cause I am too busy "doing" Christmas.
Then, do what we should all be doing everyday regardless of the season:
stop. confess. repent. pray
 stop kicking yourself and start by being grateful at His graciousness for showing you your sin
It is His gift to you to convict you
Rejoice and let your heart be filled with love for Him as you enjoy His forgiveness...
His mercies are new every morning.

Our house is beautiful enough and only 2/3 of what I had wanted to accomplish is done.
Sorry, no Christmas cards again.
And, my tree is only fully decorated from the height of my eight year old and down.

We've done this Pinterest worthy Advent bucket thing I made, half the time.

But we've done this Advent tradition more than several times as a family and I give Him the glory.
These are all tools. Tools in training our hearts and our children's towards marveling at his wondrous work.
I am resting in Him and His finished work on the cross.
God's grace is sufficient.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them?

  Come back tomorrow for my 10 Tips for white knuckling it through Christmas prep.

This post is from my Archives from December 2011. I have amended it, but in doing so this inexperienced blogger erased the original. 


  1. Hey Lita! I love this blog post. It actually is similar to a lot of the thoughts I've been having lately..."why do we do what we do?"

    I love your written description of Christmasses in Pittsburgh with Nana and Pap Pap. Nothing will ever compare to those family Christmasses. So wonderful and special and magical. But, thankfully, however we choose to celebrate, we don't have to match those past experiences...

    We have a neighbor whose only outdoor decoration or lighting is a simple manger scene lit by a spotlight. I love it. I realized the reason I love it. It's so simple and unquestionably draws attention to the real meaning of Christmas.

    As we, too, deal with medical things over the Christmas season, I am realizing that it matters much less than I used to think exactly what's on the menu, exactly what kinds of decorations are up (or not), or even how much is under the tree.

    We have been more and more intentional each year in giving the kids fewer gifts, and even contemplated someday foregoing all the gifts to put the resources towards a family mission trip or other service cause as a way of "giving" a Chrismtas gift to Christ (after all, it is HIS birthday, not ours!).

  2. Oh I have so much to say and no time to write it, but have been working out a similar such Advent post....on my "personal" day in december (22nd, I hope), maybe I'll get it done :) But I agree :)

  3. I can't wait to read it Mary!! If I knew how to link up (and other blog lingo), I would do it!

    Amy, good times we had! I am hoping for maybe next year to relive the old times!! hehe Do you think we can convince her? lol

  4. Oh, I love this post, Lita. It is such a delicate balance, isn't it? I think we have so much in common. I am first-generation Filipina-American, and my parents did all they could to ease our way in America (they gave us the most American names they could come up with "Pammy Jeanne" and "Debbie Ann"), prepared both a Filipino dish and American dish for dinner each night, etc. And for Christmases, they did their best, didn't they? My dad was a fan of the big fat silver garland, too! Oh, and my Ava's hair stuck straight up like your Elly's. In fact, their baby pictures look almost interchangeable! I'm so happy to discover your blog!

  5. Thank you for this, dear daughter in love.