Christmas: Back to the Heart of it
"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars, as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life." ~ Author Unknown
Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year. So many neat things go on, and we have an excuse to be really gaudy with all the strings of lights, strands of garland, decorated trees, and tons of food. We also tend to make more time to be with family and friends. The rest of the year seems to rush right by, and we rarely make that precious time. When I take time to reflect on Christmases past, a flood of sweet memories wash over me. I recall the splendor of the pre-decorated "gold" tree of my adolescence. Steadfast family traditions, such as mom's and Nana's annual tamale making parties, have given me rich memories. Other vivid memories include: magical candlelit midnight masses, annual tours of downtown's Christmas lights, and whimsically filled Christmas stockings. Magical moments stand out the most though, like the time snow fell in Phoenix while we were attending an outdoor reenactment of the Nativity. Anticipation of those moments is what I delight in. However, stress is also a part of this season. The entertaining, hustling, bustling crowds, hemorrhaging checking account, shopping and wrapping, and unending invitations can be overwhelming. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I have made some changes over the years to calm it all down, but I ask myself, can I do more? What is Christmas?
Of course, we all know that it is about celebrating the birth of a Savior in our world. But how do we really honor that? And what would that look like? It seems to me that it should still be magical, and giving seems to still fit, but how much? What? And to whom should we give?
In this day and age of light speed changes, I wonder how we can celebrate the meaningful events in our lives. How do we honor that which we claim to so highly value? How do we capture memories that we will build full, rich lives around? Before we can answer these questions about Christmas, we must first decide what exactly it means. Where did it start? Why is there profound meaning in Christmas? What does it personally mean to each of us? And what about all those traditions? Where did they all come from, and do they help us to honor this season?
Years ago, I received a copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance as a birthday gift. Her life's philosophy resonated with me and left me with a burning desire to build a more authentic life. We are Americans and we are abundantly blessed with the ability to make choices about the way we live and yet many of us are emotionally and spiritually emaciated.
If you are anything like me, you remember few of the gifts you have either received over the years or given. What you remember are the moments made special or magical like an unexpected visit from a dear friend, snow falling in the desert, the glow from the fireplace and the twinkling lights, the faces of children, or feeling the presence of God himself as your church choir sings angelic hymns.
I've been moving in this more authentic direction for years now, and this year I'm going to take one more bold step and make my gift giving more authentic, more personal...and less expensive. I'll let you know how it goes :-).
I would love to hear your thoughts on this beautiful season of hope, love, peace and joy. How do you honor it? Is there more...or less you long for? ~ Blessings, Janet