The holidays are here. What emotion does that evoke for you?
I confess that I have a love/hate relationship with this time of the year. When I was a child Christmas was a magical time. Most of my fond memories of childhood are of Christmas. It was the only time of the year that my whole family came together. We all lived in the same small town, but it took the celebration of Christmas to bring us all together. For several days family was in and out, food was eaten and gifts opened. As a child I loved all of it but it took becoming an adult and the benefit of hindsight for me to realize it was the family coming together that had been what was really important to me.
I won’t pretend that all of those “family events” were peaceful, that we all got along, that everyone minded their manners….but still somehow it was just important to me that we were together. I waited all year for those few days. On Christmas Eve my anticipation and excitement reached higher than the stars and I was dressed and ready hours before the first person would arrive, standing at the door, waiting. No matter what bad thing happened, or what argument marred the joy of the moment, somehow my memories were always of it being a special time.
My father died when I was 19 and the family slowly fell apart. He was the glue that held us together. The once magical Christmases ceased to exist and so began my battle with the holidays. There is still so much I love about this time of the year. I start playing Christmas music long before it is politically correct to do so and in my good years I put up as many as 5 trees. The lights bring a joyful peace to me and I am positively ridiculous about matching tree ornaments with wall color. And then of course wrapping paper and ribbons have to match the tree they reside under. I find great joy in buying gifts for the people I love, in baking and sharing food, in humble attempts to share with those who have less than I do, in the wonder and delight of children, in the laughter and warmth and beauty of the season. There is so much to love about this season when love is in the air.
There is also so much I hate about the holidays. I hate the feeling of not belonging, the loneliness, the not having a good answer to the question “what are you doing for the holidays? I hate the empty tree on Christmas morning and the pain and sadness that always come with the joy and laughter. And so there is the battle between finding such joy in this season and trying to endure the other emotions.
I know I am not alone with this struggle and so my challenge to all of us is to look around you as we enter into this season of celebration. If you are with friends and family, embrace those moments, be present and patient and engaged. Value the time you have, even with the people that may not be your favorite family member. Look around you and be aware of those who do not have strong family ties, those who may be in need or those who may be far away from their families this holiday season. Some are fighting life threatening illness, others may be going through the first holiday since losing a significant person in their life. When God puts one of these people in your path, ask Him how you can help, how you can make this season a little brighter for them, how He might use you to bring joy to them even in the midst of all your busy and joyous holiday preparation and celebrating.
The truth is that this is the season of love. We celebrate because someone loved us enough to send His son, born of a virgin, to be our savior. And while historically this is probably not the right time of year for the birth of Jesus, it is the time the world has chosen to celebrate His birth. For this period of time in our year, the focus is on Jesus, the baby born in a manager. What an opportunity for us to share our faith, to talk to those who might not otherwise listen and to show the love He has shown us, to reach out and be love to those who might be hurting. In all our shopping, decorating, cooking and being together let us remember to reflect the one who gave us the greatest gift of all….Life and a home with Him forever!
May your travels be safe, your visits be loving and your joy be full!