In just over a week I will be celebrating my 55th consecutive Christmas. I entered the big league of holiday celebrations when I was less than 4 months old. To be quite honest, I didn’t know anything about Christmas that first year. It’s hard to do research as a baby! Each year since then I’ve had the opportunity to learn more.
As a child, the words I think I would have used to describe Christmas are “excitement” and “expectation”. I knew something big was happening, even if I didn’t understand the theology behind it. There was no other time of the year we would chop down a tree and put it up in our house! It was always a family adventure to pick out just the right tree. Then we would decorate it!
All my growing up years I was blessed with living in the same state as my Grandma and Grandpa Conrad. From a child’s perspective, they were always really old. I just realized when I was born, Grandma was my age. Grandpa was 4 years older. Celebrations were always better when Grandma and Grandpa arrived! Many of my childhood Christmas celebrations included Grandma and Grandpa. This added to the concept “something big” was happening.
As I pondered this article, I wondered if most of my childhood Christmas excitement was focused on the gifts? Certainly, the gifts played a role. The only other time of the year I could expect to receive gifts was on my birthday. It is dawning on me, though, I would have been excited about Christmas even without the gifts. The best gift was the gathering of family. It didn’t happen as often as I would have liked. With family gatherings came special food, many stories (including some from before I was born), and a lot of laughter!
Many of the people who were part of my early Christmas celebrations have since died. My memories of them mean so much to me! I didn’t understand as a child that someday I would be telling stories about these people. Family members and friends are kept alive through the telling of stories!
As a 55-year old, how do I describe Christmas? I admit to not getting as excited as I did when I was a child. Words like “thankful” and “blessed” come to mind. As a child I could never have grasped someday going to my daughter and son-in-law’s house for Christmas. Do the grandcats get excited about us coming? My daughter’s marriage has brought more people into our lives from our son-in-law’s family. I’m hoping to see some of them during our Christmas celebration. It’s becoming a tradition. There are many other people across the country I wish could gather with us.
Do gifts still play a role in my Christmas? Yes, they do. My emphasis, though, has shifted more to my enjoyment of being able to give gifts. I love giving gifts year-round. Christmas is a time when people are more open to receiving gifts. It’s strange to me, though, how many people have requested “Please, no gifts”. I’m having to search for more people willing to receive gifts. This year I even sent a gift to a stranger I read about in an article (do you think he was surprised?).
I wonder how God feels when people refuse to receive God’s gifts, especially the gift of Jesus? As a child I didn’t know how my life would be completely transformed by the “Christ” in Christmas. The gift rejected by many, is the gift of life. As Christians, this is the gift we need to focus on offering. Not just at Christmas, but all year long. Let’s never tire of offering the gift of Christ, even in a society where it is common for people to say “Please, no gifts”.
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Further thoughts: This is my last article for 2019. My next “Mark’s Musings” will be published on January 7, 2020. As we approach Christmas, let’s remember what the Angel of the Lord said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger (Luke 2:9-12)”.