I have had many opportunities this last week to observe people as they go about their rituals, getting ready for Christmas. Christmas in America has become a crazy merry-go-round of activity, rushing from store to store and from party to party, standing in long lines at the post office to mail gifts to family and friends far away, and participating in children’s programs, plays and dance recitals. This year has been a small oasis of peace for our family, without all the usual activities of Christmases past. My oldest daughter has graduated out of her choir, reducing the number of Christmas activities for us this year. Our dance studio elected to take this Christmas off, giving us three weeks of no dance classes, and no recital this month. While a part of me is disappointed, as I enjoyed all the concerts and recitals and watching my children perform, another part of me is basking in the slower pace this season.
I started my shopping early this year and have finished up well before Christmas. As I went out today to buy my last gifts, I remembered why I like to shop early—there were people everywhere, grabbing and buying and loudly debating if they had to purchase a gift for so-and-so, and if so, what should that gift be. I heard lots of “oughts” and “shoulds” and saw very little joy on people’s faces as they contemplated those people who should mean the most to them. I heard people worrying about money, and how they would pay for what they were purchasing. I saw teenagers spending hundreds of dollars…on themselves, and rejoicing over the great “stuff” they were getting. I saw men buying bigger and better light displays, presumably to one-up the neighbors. I saw cranky children, pointing and whining, “I want THAT for Christmas”.
Truly, it made me sad. I thought to myself, “This is not Christmas.” I don’t believe that Christmas will be found in crowded shopping malls, busy concerts or elaborate light displays. I don’t believe it will be found in fulfilled wish lists, overstuffed plates or hectic parties. But have I seen Christmas this year? Oh yes, indeed I have.
I saw Christmas today as I went to visit my friend who is patiently caring for her husband, who is suffering with ALS. She cares for all his physical needs (which are not insignificant, being that he is on a ventilator now), patiently sits with him and deciphers his difficult speech, sleeps and eats little, and still finds time and energy to love on her six children.
I saw Christmas the other day when I was listening in on my children playing upstairs and heard my youngest ask her older brother if she could borrow one of his video games. The usual reply is “not right now”, and it caught my ear when I heard, “of course you can…you can use them anytime you want.” My heart smiled as I witnessed the spirit of Christmas invading my home.
I see Christmas every night as my family gathers around our Advent wreath to spend a few moments reflecting on the gift given to us at Christmas by our Heavenly Father. I see it in the wonder on my children’s faces, the sweetness of their prayers, the joy in my heart as we read the Scriptures foretelling Jesus’ birth.
Christmas is found in the most unlikely places. It won’t be found in frenzied shopping malls, harried schedules and raucous parties. It is found in the humblest of circumstances, the most hopeless of situations, and the darkest of nights. Where pain and suffering live, that is where Christmas can be found. Jesus came to bring hope to the hopeless and healing to the hurting. He is right there beside my friend, holding her hand as she holds her husband’s. He is with my children as they learn about the true meaning of Christmas and as their hearts fill with anticipation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. He is with each of us, no matter our circumstances, as we enter this most holy of seasons…we only have to slow down, open our hearts and witness the miracle of Christmas.
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