A fair portion of my Facebook newsfeed is a case for and against early Christmas decorations. My satellite radio is already boasting holiday channels, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t already watched a Christmas movie or two. ‘Tis the season after all.

I still have three haphazardly carved Jack-o-Lanterns on my front porch, permanent marker scribbles still visible in daylight. We put it off as long as we could, hoping to avoid rotting squash on our porch, but we finally gave in on the day before Halloween. It was gross, as always. The kids don’t like touching the innards, so we always end up rolling up our sleeves and taking one for the team. However, when the task is done, it’s always worth it when the kids find the best place on the porch for their creatively drawn and lovingly carved pumpkin. It’s always worth it when we roast the pumpkin seeds, pour hot apple cider, and sit in front of the fireplace. The family time is worth it, the memories, and those smiles. I don’t even think I took pictures this year (my hands were too dirty), but our Halloweens are not about scary costumes and scary experiences. Our Halloweens are about family traditions and memories. One of our traditions is to gather and trick-or-treat with all the cousins as it’s not just a family holiday, but a family birthday. Both my brother and my nephew have a Haloween birthday. For many, Halloween means something else entirely. For many of Hispanic culture, it’s the minor buildup to the major holiday of Dia de Muertos. For many Protestants around the world its the celebration of the Reformation. Whether you celebrate Halloween with a pumpkin and a superhero costume, remember Dia de Muertos with warm Pan de Muertos, or mark Reformation Day by pinning 95 Reese’s to your office door, I hope you enjoyed it. The odds are it was the start of a whole season of celebrations to come.

‘Tis the season for Christians to judge other Christians for celebrating (or not celebrating) the holidays.

I celebrate Halloween and Christmas. I also celebrate the birthday of the Army, Flag Day, and Armed Forces Day. We travel to the veteran’s cemetery every May for Memorial Day. We have a big family dinner on Thanksgiving. We barbecue every chance we get–Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day. We shoot fireworks. We put money under pillows for lost teeth. We run Turkey Trots. We roast birds and boil cranberries. We have birthday parties for the one-year-old who will never remember and the 39-year-old who wants to forget. We buy table cloths and silly hats. We put up a tree for Christmas. Two trees. Three trees! We help the grandparents decorate. We buy presents. We buy Toys for Tots, donate food to pantries. We make parade floats, decorate holiday cookies, drop change in the red buckets. I love every minute of it.

To me, celebrating holidays is not about rebellion or selfishness. It’s about family, about joy, and about being alive.

We are alive by God’s grace alone. When I wake up in the morning if I’m not thanking God with my first breath, then what am I here for? God is good all the time and my living and celebrating a good life is all to His glory. Does my God smile when my children open presents on Christmas morning? I think he does. I know He does. Does He cry with me when someone says something hateful and hurtful on social media about Christians selling out the Pagans when they put up a tree? I think He does.

A recent blog post by OUTLOOK blogger, Kendra Carlson spoke volumes to me on this subject. Her blog post is not about Holiday traditions or abstentions. It’s about big issues in our church and how they’re dealt with. A particular text that stands out to me is: “When we talked about spiritual abuse…we talked about pushing others to behave AS IF they were convicted the way we are. I’m afraid disciplining whole sections of the church who are convicted differently than the majority is abusive.”

Now, Kendra is speaking in response to church action, church leadership being disciplined within the church. My church is not disciplining me for celebrating Christmas. My pastor, elder, or church board isn’t taking action against the Christmas tree in my living room or the reindeer in my yard. It’s only other Christians, the hands and feet of God, the brothers and sisters in Christ, that try to grind down my joy year after year.

Going into this season of joy and thanksgiving I’m thankful for Jesus Christ Who is more dependable than any fairytale elf, for my Father God Who is more constant than Father Christmas, and the Holy Spirit Who goes further than seeing when I’m sleeping, knowing when I’m awake and taking note of whether I’m bad or good. I’m not good for Christmas presents, but for a Kingdom and a King Who is a very present hope in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

If you’ve been run down by other Christians during the holidays one too many times, take heart. Christmas can be a glorious time to celebrate life and love while celebrating Christ’s birth. We don’t have to become hung up on the exact day he was born or reject it because Walmart is making boatloads of cash on gifts and decorations. Embrace it if you’d like. Instead of getting your feelings hurt, pray for those who are hurting your feelings. Instead of judging others by their celebration, turn inward and take the time to draw your family close to Jesus.

If you are bogged down in expectations this season, return to Christ. He is the reason for the season!

  • Volunteer at a community dinner
  • Cook a meal for a neighbor
  • Bless a stranger with a thoughtful gift.
  • Check out this Advent Calendar and follow along throughout December.

It’s only November, but start planning now and you will have the budget and the time to put some extra love into your holidays!