“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.” -Bill McKibben
Believe me, I know. For 37 years I have been the director of Christmas in our household. My first Christmas as a mother, I was actually finishing crafting one gift in the hospital after having given birth to Annie, our first child. It’s a telling statement on what I expected of myself, and what I had taken on.
And honestly, what I remember most is bringing our sweet, beautiful new daughter home on Christmas Eve, dressed in red, where she was welcomed with ‘oohs’ and ‘awes’ into my husband’s large and welcoming extended family. She played the role of the baby Jesus that night, in the family’s reading of The Christmas Story, complete with live child actors.
That was my Christmas moment that year.
What I have come to realize is that despite all the energy we may put into the pageantry that Christmas can become, there is so much I don’t remember about so many Christmases. But it seems that every year, there is at least one moment where time stands still and a magical experience unfolds, leaving an imprint that is never lost.
I’ll never forget that moment during Christmas, 1963. It was the year my mother had died, 10 months earlier. My father took on the role of ‘the Christmas Magician’ with such enthusiasm I have never forgotten the scene when I walked out into the living room rubbing my eyes, still sleepy. He had been waiting for me to wake up and rang his Christmas bells heralding Christmas morning. He had been working three jobs to pay for hospital and burial expenses, plus to keep the two of us afloat. And yet there before my wondering eyes were my first set of skis and boots, deep red ski pants and coat (with red velvet collar), and sheepskin lined boots to wear to and from the mountain!
And sitting next to it was a new Barbie and Ken with ski attire, and a little set of wicker furniture for them! I had seen the Barbie sized wicker couch and chairs in Newberry’s when my Dad and I were shopping. He was the type to notice.
What touched me so deeply, even though I was only nine, is that I knew the sacrifice his generous gift had meant. More importantly, I knew that my dad had always wanted to ski and never had been able to thus far in life.
He took me to ski school every Saturday after that and watched!
One of the happy memories of my life is that a few years later, he too got skis and we skied together from then on.
What are some of your favorite Christmas moments? Was it the year a puppy popped out of a box on Christmas morning? Or the first year you got to help your Dad put the lights on the roof? Was it a favorite teacher who saw a need you had and took you aside for a moment of understanding and wisdom? Was it the look on a child’s face the year you helped a struggling family? Or was it the first time you were kissed under the mistletoe, or the first time you really appreciated Handel’s Messiah? Was it the year your family served Christmas dinner to the homeless at a soup kitchen or watching your favorite version of The Christmas Carol?
Sometimes our cultural consumerism approach to Christmas, referred to in Unplug the Christmas Machine, by Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli, robs us of the wonder of the season with its over-emphasis on buying. I have been guilty of being sucked into that machine. These authors offer us an invitation to focus on our values, creating a Christmas that responds to our most deeply held ideals and desires.
I love Christmas because my parents loved Christmas. They both loved life and loved people. Christmas was a time to share that love. I remember my mother with a can of spray snow in her hands, showering the evergreen boughs that were part of the decorations she created. I still have the brass bells strung on a long strip of leather that Daddy rang every Christmas as he used his deepest voice to say ‘ho, ho, ho!’ I remember both of them giving of themselves to others. My Dad’s Christmas sacrifice shaped my emerging personality deeply. That Christmas was less about the elaborate gifts and more about his willingness to sacrifice for others—and to find joy in it!
I love Christmas because it catapults life into a time of wonder, beauty, remembering others, gathering with family and friends, honoring traditions, and reflecting on the values and sacrifices of the Christmas story, of a babe born in a manger, marked by a wondrous star burning brightly in the sky, which led both shepherds and kings to the scene of His humble birth.
As I write I am gazing at a beautiful statue of Mary, perhaps the most famous mother who has ever lived. She is draped in a beautiful light blue robe with a gold brocade border, over a simple cream-colored dress. The countenance on her face is a reflection of reverence. Her head is ever so slightly bowed and her hands are clasped in the manner of prayer. The ends of bare toes protrude from her long dress. It is a statue that invites deep contemplation.
That’s a reminder I need every day of the year. I still have presents to wrap and food to buy and cook, but just maybe, right now, I am having my Christmas moment for this year.
In the midst of all that might be weighing you down with the countdown to Christmas, it is my wish that unexpectedly a moment will arrive; one with calm, and wonder; a moment of reflection, love, and joy; a moment that reminds you why this all matters! And I invite you to go to Creating a Life You Love on Facebook and share your Christmas moment, whether from your past or present!