Joseph Tobias: Christmas Bondage and Christ’s Liberation

CNN headline posted to Facebook reads, “Tyler Perry paid off more than $430,000 in layaways ahead of Christmas.

Curious, I went to the comments section, where soon after I read, “We aren’t able to have Christmas this year due to some financial struggles.”

This was an honest, simple and sad comment: Honest and simple because of its vulnerability and sad, not because they are having financial difficulties, but sad because of what Christmas means to them.

This Christmas, many will buy gifts, put up decorations, buy matching or ugly sweaters and take cute photos—among other things—not because they want to, but because if they do not, the competitive and ego-driven self will give no rest in an attempt to measure up to the illusion we have made of Christmas.

The societal pressure is real.

However, while Christmas is a time of great joy and excitement for some, for others Christmas is a time of great anxiety and a desire for all of it to be over.

Entering into the bondage of Christmas

Since coming to America, I have struggled to feel like a father who is able to provide for his kids. This feeling usually is heightened with the coming of each American celebration.

This past Thanksgiving, my family sat around our empty table with no smell of turkey or ham. I felt I failed my daughter, who now knows what other tables are filled with at such times.

While I was harboring my inability to provide my family with a decent meal at Thanksgiving, I already was dreading the thought of being unable to buy a Christmas tree.

Further adding to the misery of this African father even before Thanksgiving was over, I was bombarded constantly by debates on the radio about when the Christmas tree should be put up—before or after Thanksgiving.

With no lights and no sounds around our house to remind us of the Christmas season, my kids and wife again will not unwrap presents.

I told Netanya, our 4-year-old, “Sorry, Baby, we cannot afford to buy a violin for you at Christmas.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “Santa will get it for me.”

The pressure in society is present in my household. If I could, I would do anything for my daughter to feel the joy of having her wishes met.

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Source: Baptist Standard