I just returned from choir practice. Each year I try to sing in our church’s Christmas program. The songs and the fellowship of our choir bring me such joy! And the programs always bring back precious memories of other churches, other choirs, other Christmases. Christmas is a time for memories, so for the month of December I’m going to indulge in mine! Every blog this month will somehow be tied to Christmas. Even if you don’t like Christmas or you are having a very difficult time this year, stick around- there will be something for everyone.
I have some great Christmas memories- some funny, some sad, some sappy. One year we ended up in the hospital emergency room for Christmas! I worked at Macy’s for five years and each year I found myself working in gift wrap for at least part of the holiday. I still remember my first Christmas as a new mother, and I remember my first Christmas as a motherless child. We’ll get to all those stories later.
Christmas is about presents. It’s about God’s present to us and our presents to others. It’s about generosity and caring and forgiveness. We’ve made it about shopping and money and food. However, if you spend time with children, as I do, you never lose that wonder, that expectation that Christmas is about possibilities. What if…? I helped my students write their letters to Santa last week. They were funny and creative and wistful. One little boy asked me if it was okay to ask for a “real monkey” and a “huge cage for it”. I told him there’s nothing wrong with asking.
You can make someone so happy just by giving them something as a token of your love. You can make something, bake something, or do something that just says, “Hey, I care about you!” It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be the latest “it”, the “must have” of the year. All it has to be is something you took the time and care to choose. I have loved all the things my children have made over the years. I love the things my grandchildren make. I love them because making something takes time. Today, especially, time is a precious gift.
We think that our children are going to remember all the games and toys and gadgets we buy for them, but they won’t. If we’re lucky they will remember one or two perhaps that make an impact. My memories of gifts are like that. I remember a few from my childhood: a paint-by-number set, a doll, a tea set, a dollhouse. However, two gifts stand out.
My grandfather was an alcoholic. I’m not sure exactly when I realized it, but I think I was about nine years old. He was a talented carpenter and craftsman before he gave his life to wine. My grandmother kept a few toys that he’d crafted of wood and several people have told me of his skills. When I was four, or five, he decided to build a table and chairs and a little cabinet for me. I can’t imagine the time it must have taken to build it and paint it. It was the best Christmas present ever! I remember sitting with him and eating pie from tiny plates and then washing them in the sink he had fashioned in the middle of the cabinet. I felt so grownup!
When I was about nine years old my parents gave me a record player for Christmas. My grandparents had bought a café by then and I spent a lot of time in front of the jukebox. Well, Dad got a whole stack of 45’s from the guy who stocked the jukebox! I played those things and sang until I was hoarse! I just knew I was going to be famous someday. That’s the magic of a special gift. It shows us that the giver has an insight into our dreams, our hopes, our wishes.
My gift to you this Christmas season is my prayers. I pray that you find peace and joy. I pray that you are surrounded by good friends and family. I pray that you get and give a special gift.