I was very much of two minds about putting something on this site when it doesn’t have a sermon to go with it, so I went to the other room and told my Mom (stepmom if that is important to you) that I was trying to decide about something, she said, “Yes, you should” without getting even a hint about the question so here I am. Reflecting on Christmas Day.
Christmas Day has always been a bit of strange day in my life. When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was the big family event; we ate together, read the Christmas story from Luke, opened presents and DID NOT ALLOW anyone to join us who wasn’t at least engaged to join the family until we had opened everything. Christmas Day was the day we had any number of folks join us from no one to a dozen or more.
To this day I don’t really know what to do with Christmas Day. When I got married it was time to decide whether we were going to be a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day family. We tried to do both for quite some time and I eventually realize, yeah I can be slow, that that was one of the most significant sources of stress for me. We eventually evolved into doing gifts on Christmas Eve one year and Christmas morning the next; determined primarily by who was in town.
I want to be clear, I really appreciate Christmas Day and all that it represents. I am so grateful that Jesus Christ chose to condescend to become human that I can’t even adequately express it in my own imagination let alone out loud. Christmas Day is one of the best days of the year for what it means, not just that I get to give and receive gifts (by the way I am well aware that Easter Sunday is logically and philosophically dependent on Christmas Day but Easter Sunday is still the best day of the year). I love the fact that a gracious God was willing to go to such profound lengths for me, me!
So what do I do with this day? For so many people this is a day that is filled with melancholy and a sense of loss; for so many more it is a day filled with regret for what might have been; for others it is another day of failure where they feel their limitations as parents, children, partners, friends, etc. especially keenly. For me it is a day where by turns I miss my late parents, my brothers who are not here; I celebrate God with us, a wonderful family; I too wish I was a better husband, father, friend, man; I celebrate how far I have come in the last 30 or 35 years.
This is a day for giving that simultaneously reminds me that I do give and that I remain a very selfish and self-oriented person. This is a day where I consistently give thanks to God for those members of my family whose love language is gift giving, even as I despair of ever giving as wonderfully well as they do.
This is a day where I enjoy the opportunity to eat and drink and be with family and friends – and is not one of God’s best gifts when those two groups overlap? It is a day when I feel considerably freedom from the requirements to work and be conventionally productive. In other words, a very special day, one like no other.
Well just saying “me too” doesn’t really begin to cover the range of ‘you nailed it’ responses I had as I read this post. It was a bit of an epiphany to me to read “whose love language is gift giving,” I would say that pretty much described both Mom and Verna. Sadly, for me, gift giving is more required chore than love language. What I do enjoy is the family around. If we gave no presents at all I’d be fine. However, without the kids in the house it would not be Christmas. And I realize as I say that, that somewhere along the way, the “must have around” family has narrowed to be my nuclear family. And in that I recognize the splintering nature of the fall that Christ came to reconcile. Surprising how such a magnanimous, selfless gesture of hope and redemption can highlight the less exemplary aspects of my attitudes and actions.
However, even though I recognize that I am not fulfilling all my expectations for me, at the same time I know that I have a marvelous extended family of my brothers and their families and my mom. Not many get as good a mom as I. And to have had 2 of them that marvelous often seems unreasonably lavish. I have good friends and a great church. My life is blessed beyond expectation no matter what standard I use to assess it.
It’s this realization that makes me appreciate the Christmas season and Christmas Day most poignantly. That while I was ( and continue to be) a wretch on so many levels, Christ came for me. It is endlessly astonishing to me and at the same time I am eternally grateful for that love demonstrated.
Merry Christmas to all and the best of wishes for the New Year.