By: Kimberly Troup
Ah… December… As I’m sitting here with cold fingers, toes, and nose, I’m somewhat jealous of our Australian friends… I think I need to go visit them over the Christmas holiday, just to experience summer heat during the holiday season! Although, Australian friends have told me that it just doesn’t feel right to bake a turkey and all the trimmings for a traditional Christmas dinner in 100 degree (38 degrees C) heat! Here in Colorado it is looking like a pretty cold and snowy holiday season.
Christmas is a time that brings mixed emotions for me. I grew up in a Christian home that did not celebrate Christmas. I was taught as a child that Christmas is a completely pagan holiday and shouldn’t be celebrated in any way, so I grew up without a Christmas tree, festive lights or presents. We were definitely the odd family whom no one quite understood. Given my background, I do have an understanding of the many people I meet today who also don’t celebrate Christmas.
Today I do celebrate Christmas, even though I know that the holiday is not a Biblical one. In our home, the focus of Christmas is on Jesus. But we do have a (gasp) pagan Christmas tree in our living room, pretty lights and, of course, presents. As an adult I looked at what Christmas meant to me and decided that I wanted to incorporate the love, joy, and excitement that has become so much a part of the culture of Christmas into our family. I wanted to instill these values into our children while obliterating the pagan elements that may once have been associated with the early foundation of Christmas.
The main Christmas display that we put up every year is our collection of nativity sets. Our collection includes some unique sets hand-crafted from olive wood that I bought in Israel, as well as items from Congo, Mexico, Kenya, a woodland creature design, and a traditional store-bought one. For me it shows that our hearts are focused on the reason for the season. For if Jesus had not been born, I would still be worshiping a tree in a forest somewhere. Without my faith in Jesus I would not have a relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
I know for many who love Israel and follow the Hebraic roots of our faith, whether or not to celebrate Christmas can be a real struggle. And I usually get some chastising notes and emails from well-meaning folks who are aghast that I allow a pagan Christmas tree in my home, when I should know better! So I will apologize in advance if talking about Christmas or saying “Merry Christmas” is offensive to you. I believe that God has called us to be salt and light wherever we go in this world. To give flavor and clarity of vision to all we come in contact with. And Christmas is a great time to do that, to be living examples of God’s love everywhere we go.
Some might say that I grew up in a dysfunctional home; I certainly didn’t grow up in a traditional home! However, I did have two parents who loved God and who loved me. With God’s help and grace I turned out ok and I haven’t been too scarred by my untraditional upbringing. I do have great empathy, though, for children who come from truly dysfunctional homes, who haven’t experienced unconditional love from a parent, or who did not have someone who believed in them, or encourage them to chase their dreams.
As 2018 comes to a close you have an opportunity to sow into the lives of teens who are struggling. You have the chance to be the wind beneath their wings that can lift them out of despair and change the course of their lives. I am asking you to give a special gift this Christmas season to help troubled teens in Israel. Your donation will provide them with the help they need to overcome the obstacles life has thrown their way. Thank you for making a difference in their lives by believing in them and investing in their future.
I pray your holidays are filled with warmth and wonder, and you are salt and light to all you meet. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Director, US Office
Christian Friends of Israeli Communities