The entire month of December I am surrounded with the sights, sounds and smells of American mid winter festivities. The radio is filled with the sounds of holiday music,
everything ranging from selfish gimme songs like Santa Baby to selfless
songs like I Want Your Presence For Christmas. All around I see the beautiful lights, decorations, nutcrackers, gingerbread people, snowmen, and Santa and his entourage. Even the grocery market offers up samples of the delicious special occasion foods that are brought out for celebration feasts, tempting traditions that bring back memories of feasts and fun.
Sometimes, it can be overwhelming, this month of December. There are annual dinners, banquets, parties, and programs to attend, gobbling up many of the 31 little squares on the calendar. Advertisements arrive daily with the sole purpose of tempting me away from contentment, convincing me that I am lacking. That my life would be fuller, richer, better, if I had better stuff, newer stuff, more stuff. They lure my children with the bait of shiny new things, leaving the impression that THIS toy/game/gadget cannot be lived without. In the blink of an eye, what we have looses its shine, its value. In a season that should be about gratitude, it is easily to slip into ungratefulness.
Don't get me wrong, I love the season. I love nutcrackers, we have a shelf full of them. My daughter loves the story of the Nutcracker and it is an annual tradition to experience it with her and to add a new nutcracker to her collection. I love lights and pine scented boughs and the sparkly, twinkly bursts of light that envelop our home with a soft glow. I love the sounds of White Christmas drifting through the air. Making gingerbread houses is one of our favorite traditions. But... I could have enjoyed December snow, nutcrackers, lights, wreaths, bows and gifts even if there had been no manger. I could have enjoyed winter parties, special foods, winter/gift/love-you music had there been no shepherds and angels. I could have enjoyed so many of the things that we enjoy about this season, had there been no Bethlehem; but I could never have experienced Christmas, real Christmas, had there been no Christ.
I'm glad that Honey Pie and I started our marriage Christmas traditions off by deciding our biggest gift would always be for Christ. Not for each other, or for children who would come down the road, but for him. So that the gift he gave when he first came, and then again when he came to us individually, could be passed on to others who have not yet heard. But even so, I'm finding the balance between my American midwinter festivities and Christmas often get blurred. I find that sometimes one crowds out the other. That Christmas is often more about us, than about him. Far too often the holidays have no holy days.
I don't want to confuse my children, by leaving the impression that Heavens Gift is on equal terms with our gifts. I give to you because I love you, but my gift will one day rust, fall apart or quit working. My gifts you will outgrow. But Heavens Gift, it is a one size fits all, never failing, keep on working till you drop kind of gift.
That first Christmas found Mary in agony, far away from her family and friends. She was surrounded by dirt and animal smells. It was not picture post card perfect. It was dirty, it was dank. The conception was miraculous, the delivery was bloody and brutal. Life sometimes is. But the absence of physical comforts, and emotional highs, are not a sign that the gift is not with us.
Heavens Gift, is with us even when we are not surrounded by friends, family, fun. It is with us even when we are without warmth or comfort. It is not dependent on new stuff, festivities, money. The real Christmas gift can find you when you are alone, in pain, misunderstood. It's he kind that comes to us, like it did to Mary, in unexpected places.