My wife had asked me this past week to put up the Christmas tree and decorations over the weekend.
It was nice spending a little time by myself reminiscing as I went through some of the decorations and memories. I found an ornament my grandmother had made. A gift ornament from 1985, several ornaments our kids had made throughout the last several years and strings of lights that are probably fifty years old. There were a lot of things that made me think back to points in my childhood. My mother had given me a ton of decorations after my grandparents had passed, so the memories are all right there every year.
When I was growing up, Christmas was special. It was a time of wonder. I always wondered how jolly old St. Nick managed to stuff himself down the chimney and get out of my grandpa’s freestanding wood burner? My parents and I lived in places that had no chimney! It was always awesome to wake up and see the cookie crumbs on the plate and the empty milk cup. As time went by, and after my mother revealed the dreadful truth of Santa being a lie, Christmas became kind of a drag.
I suppose it never really dawned on me until I was a bit older what we were really celebrating? There may have been mention of celebrating the birth of Jesus, but I really am not sure if I had known what that meant? I was not really raised knowing Jesus, or God, and I didn’t know the story. Jesus was just a picture on the wall, a man in a book, a word the adults would say and the topic of discussion in the hundreds of churches in our city.
Once I understood the reason for the celebration, I thought it was nice. It was a time to celebrate the love we have for each other, the birth of a Savior I didn’t believe in and a good time to trade presents. I suppose I was coerced in a sense? My parents believed. My entire family was Catholic on both my father and mother’s side, but we never attended a church. We never read the Bible and we rarely talked about the Lord. Christmas was a good time for many years, but it soon began to change as I entered the church buildings.
I began to learn about the pagan roots of Christmas. Why we put up the tree, the celebration date and the ritualistic facets of the season. You can do your research and find that Christmas goes far beyond a celebration of our Savior. I really got carried away with being perfect as I entered the church buildings and began to dig deep into the Bible. I am anal-retentive and have bouts of OCD, so I tend to go very deep. Although, I’m continuously working on both. It is all I can do to not get started on the pagan roots of what most call “church” right now! Anyway, I began to lose my love for the holidays all together.
This year, and especially this year, the rummaging through the old memories, the message I had listened to yesterday (The Baby–God’s Son), and the many losses my family and acquaintances have experienced has led me to think about Christmas in a different way. No, I don’t think certain aspects of the holidays or “church” is good, but I believe there is good in both. I took something from yesterday’s experience as I put up the tree and décor. The time alone; the several hours of thinking and giving Him praise led me to a very deep appreciation.
Those memories of my life hanging all over the artificial tree are always telling a story of the past. Each time I walk by it, my mind goes to a day, a memory or a moment in time. Those memories take me through a maze of emotions. They take me to very good places deep within my heart. They take me to places I would rather not visit, so I quickly weed those out. The star at the top of our tree is a constant reminder of the birth of our Savior. I know that my wife, kids and the family will have their own memories, and we will make new ones, as we gather around the tree this year.
It really had me thinking about how truly blessed my family and I are as I was putting all of that holiday material out yesterday. I know a woman who just lost her mother, father and sister. I know a guy who lives off of handouts. Because of his disabilities, he cannot work. He also has no government assistance. He lost his wife and never recovered from her passing. He will be having a pretty joyless Christmas. One of my parents just split up with their spouse. Whole families will not have shelter or food this year. The reminders of just how blessed I am really hit me hard yesterday. They provided a deep appreciation I haven’t felt in a while.
My prayer this morning is that each one of us not only find peace within the coming holiday, but that we also see just how blessed we really are. Our Savior was born. He came into this world to fulfill. I pray that you wholeheartedly know what that means. I pray that each one of us count each blessing that we have; each breath, each bite of food, each smile, each person we encounter and each victory we have through Him over the work of the devil. I pray that the life that we have in the world is victorious through what Jesus has and will be within each one of us. HE is the reason for the season. Please pray for those who go without. Pray for those who do not know the Christ we celebrate. Blessings to each one of you.