Scrooge and I have more in common than I would like to admit. Both of us needed a visit from the Ghost Of Christmas Past to kick start a change in our outlook. Happily, I am not a bitter old miser, but I had a skewed perspective about Christmas that needed to be altered. My transformation, as did his, resulted from reflections on Christmases past.
This Christmas I vowed to make my celebration different. Motivation came from an Advent sermon encouraging simplification in order to focus on the reason for the season. Right on! I was on board.
Simplification meant that I did less decorating. I did not send out a multitude of Christmas cards containing a carefully crafted newsletter detailing the year’s accomplishments and events. I eliminated some activities usually undertaken so that I could be caught up in faith, not frenzy. Success, right? Wrong.
The problem was rooted in my naive conclusion that simplifying Christmas meant only an external overhaul. I would focus on the reason for the season if all the trappings–tinsel, candles, wreaths, Christmas cookies, etc.–were eliminated or at least reduced. Christmas would be as joyous as it was in Whoville when all those Christmas things were stolen by the Grinch. He didn’t stop Christmas from coming because Christmas isn’t something that comes in a box. It isn’t about things.
While I clearly understand that Christmas is not defined by trappings, I was still trapped in the emotions of Christmas. I know that Christmas is not about presents, but I was caught up in who was present for Christmas. Cue the Ghost Of Christmas past.
The Christmas stocking I have had since I was a little girl was hung by the chimney with care. I didn’t expect to get anything in it, but it reminded me of my childhood. When I was young, Christmas was filled love and hugs and the presence of my parents and siblings. Sadly, these family members were nowhere near me this Christmas. My parents have moved on to heaven, and my siblings each live in different states hours away from me. How could I experience the joy of Christmas without any of my immediate family present?
On the wall by my kitchen table is the Advent calendar which allows a different wooden ornament to be placed daily on a Christmas tree. I bought this Advent calendar when my children were young, and they loved it. My son and daughter would fight over who could put up the ornament each day until I cleverly came up with the plan that they would alternate days with my daughter, as the older of the two, going first. But my kids are grown and have moved out of state; due to job and family commitments neither could travel home for Christmas. How could I smile at Christmas without my kids in my house to engage in activities such as putting ornaments on the worn but beloved Advent calendar?
Then it came to me. The first Christmas was like the Christmas I was experiencing. Mary and Joseph were by themselves for Jesus’ birthday. No family members were with them in the stable. The animals in the stable were their only company just as our pets provided our only company. The stable was not decorated for a holiday, and no holiday events were planned. Mary and Joseph just reveled in the wonder of Jesus’ birth and presence with them. Undoubtedly they spent time wondering what was in store for them with Him in their lives.
Just like the Grinch, I had a revelation about the true meaning of Christmas. He got that it wasn’t about presents, and I realized that it isn’t about presence. Christmas will come regardless of whether all, some or none of my family is with me. Christmas isn’t about who is present, it is about who came and made His presence here on Earth. He is the only one whose presence is material to Christmas Day. Unlike my family members who may die or move away, Jesus is ALWAYS with me. He is the best gift anyone could ever receive. And He is a gift which keeps on giving. He is with me on Christmas and every other day of the year.
Scrooge’s encounter with the Ghost of Christmas past resulted in his outlook being broadened. He realized that it was not just about him; he needed to care about others. My outlook, while also changed by thinking of Christmases past, was narrowed. I realized that Christmas is not about anyone but Jesus. His presence alone is the reason for the season and the cause for my celebration. Having relatives present with me is nice, but it is not necessary for me to experience joy at Christmas.