It is natural that children focus on the gifts because that is what holds their attention so easily. I'm certainly not faulting them for it. It's fun.
As I grew older, I found myself thinking more about the "reason for the season" as they say, than about the gifts. When I am asked by family in November what I would want for Christmas I really struggle to come up with something. It's just not as much on my mind as it was as a kid.
For me, I love the decorations and the music and other attributes that go with it. I also find myself focusing more on my faith.
Last week, Emily, Aaron and I ventured to my parents' home in Winona for Thanksgiving. We left Wednesday and stayed through the weekend with the culmination of the visit taking place at my original home in faith - Moore Memorial United Methodist Church.
Emily put her musical talents to work playing her cello for the congregation, and I assisted Rev. Rusty Keen in the service as a licensed lay Eucharistic minister. Since his arrival in Winona, his ministry has been particularly special to me as he incorporates a lot of Episcopal flavor in the liturgy as the Methodist church is derived from the same Anglican roots as the Episcopal Church.
It was a wonderful experience to participate in a service in my home church. In all the hustle and bustle of the holidays just beginning, the experience brought my focus back to the foundation of why I love the Christmas season - my faith.
It seems these days that those of us who profess the Christian faith are bombarded with so may influences that attempt to draw us away. Everything from being criticized about saying a prayer before athletic events to the Christmas season being referred to as the holiday season, Christians seem to be on the defensive from secular influences.
I have held more of a "live and let live" kind of attitude. Let me do my thing, you do yours. We may not agree on all things, but I'll respect your views, you respect mine and we'll be ok.
I find these days that it is getting harder and harder to do as some segments of society feel it necessary to persecute Christians for simply expressing our faith. Like other Episcopalians, I will listen and answer questions about my beliefs, but I will not force my views on others - only say they are welcome to join me.
On Monday night at the Morton Christmas parade, I saw a sign that said "Keep Christ in Christmas and in America." I wasn't aware that it was ever taken out. To some, it may seem that way if you let it. By saying or even thinking of the word Christmas, you are thinking of Christ.
Then you have the protest against using Xmas, which is an abbreviation based on the Greek letter chi (X) derived from the Greek translation of Christ. Taking notes in a hurry for stories, I use this abbreviation often. To me, it does not mean I think of Christ any less.
As we move further into the Christmas season, let's not focus so much on how people refer to Christmas but instead celebrate the joy of the season itself.
If Christians persecute those who say "holidays" instead, are we no different than they who persecute us? Instead, show them why our faith is important, and maybe then they'll listen and realize the reason for the season.
Chris Allen Baker is a native of Winona and serves as the managing editor of The Scott County Times in Forest. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.