Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas 2012: Here's Hoping the World Doesn't End Before Then

If the world ends on 21 December as allegedly expected, this post will be irrelevant, but nonetheless, here goes everything and/or nothing.

I find it nearly impossible at times to get into the Christmas spirt. Over Thanksgiving, my dad and I hung up the Christmas lights -- a task I have loathed every year since I was old enough to help. As I struggled to wrap lights around our porch, I thought to myself, "Hanging Christmas lights is enough to turn even the best saint into a Christmas Scrooge." True story. Generally, this statement makes more sense because my dad chooses the coldest day of the entire year for hanging up lights; this year, however, it was like 40 degrees. I had no reason to complain.

It wasn't always like this. Christmas was, at one point, the best thing ever in life. I looked forward to the snow, the gifts, the popcorn wreaths, and the strands of popcorn and cranberries that we hung on the tree.

So, what happened? What caused this sudden onset of Grinch-ness? Perhaps it was a realization of the commercialization of the holiday. Maybe I lost that child-like joy that punctuates the Christmas air with laughter and happiness. Maybe I just outgrew Christmas.

At this point, some of you may be hating me. You may have even stopped reading. DON'T STOP!

With all of these things on my mind, and trying to get back into the Christmas spirit so as to avoid being cast out of house and home, I remembered an experience I had in Romania. It did not occur at Christmas, but was about Christmas. I share it because it has become very personally meaningful and has helped me remember what Christmas is about.

Romania was a time of great personal upheaval as well as a time of growth. During a particularly pointed and difficult time, I found myself in a small hospital room with my little girl. She and I had shared several existential moments and she was a perfect listener. My little girl is not very old, but she has experienced a lot in her short life. On this day, I was instructed only to feed and change her and then be on my way. That was hard. I had a lot that I wanted to talk through with this little girl. 

Nonetheless, I complied. I changed her diaper, fed her, and stayed only long enough to hum her a song. The song that came to mind was Away in a Manger. This was out of the ordinary. Christmas music is acceptable starting on 1 December, and this was February. I didn't stop, though. For some reason, that song just felt right for that moment.

As I sung/hummed, the words came to life. "I love thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh." Tears came to my eyes. I apologized to my little girl. I couldn't be there for her for more than a few minutes. She would have no one by her cradle this day. And yet, she would. Soon, the words became a prayer for her and my other kids at the hospital: "Bless all the dear children in thy tender care." I knew then that my little girl would not be alone. Someone would be there, staying by her cradle till the morning was nigh. 

Reviewing that experience has reminded me what Christmas is about. It's not the packages, the Black Friday deals, or the lights. It has reminded me that the thing of most importance is what the life of Christ meant and means. Because of His life, we don't have to be alone. Because of His life, my little girl had someone there with her when I couldn't be. Because of His life, I have a balm in Gilead. 

I had become disillusioned by Christmas because I had forgotten that lesson. I had let my mind become caught up in the commercialistic and Pagan aspects of the holiday instead of focusing on the point of Christmas. It's not the music, the lights, the tree, or the treats. It's the Child. It's Him. He is why my little girl had someone there while she slept, and why the next day she was sleeping peacefully.   

This little video portrays how I feel about Christmas, and how I hope you will feel. Enjoy!