Wednesday, December 17, 2014

cancelled...and back on again

Contemplating cancelling Christmas this year?

For entire life, I've hated the Christmas season.  Too much hustle.  Too much bustle.  Way too many gifts and piggy banks broken wide open.  I never understood the meaning of Christmas.  I mean, I got the part about it being Jesus' birthday and all, but I just couldn't grasp the depth of the season.  What it really meant for us.  In this play, Santa Claus was the main character and Jesus merely played the understudy.

Every year as we enter into the winter months, I do so in a state of gloominess so heavy it feels like a lead blanket wrapped around my entire body.  I trudge forward blindly buying gifts for obligatory family members, baking dozens of sugary treats for neighbors, dropping off nonperishable items into food bank bins and nickels into tin cans, while a Santa impostor watches on methodically ringing that bell.  We give and we give and we give.  All the while the pain of my groaning bank account leaves me feeling emptier than ever.

I shop hastily and angrily cross off recipients, like names appearing on the naughty list.  Just get it done, I think, then it will be over and you can focus on the real reason.  Focus on the candles glimmering around the Advent ring.  Focus on Mary, swelling with our Savior, atop that donkey being led to a destination painfully far away.  Focus on the story.  Instead of being filled with bitterness and resentment, I will finally be able to focus on the truth.  On Jesus.

"God loves a cheerful giver."  The whisper echoes inside my hollow heart.

I told my husband I wanted to cancel Christmas this year.  Not the Jesus part, but the Santa part.  I had so many reasons why.  Selfish reasons.  We are already drained financially and on the verge of ruin.  Our families are dysfunctional at best--the band aid has been ripped off, left so exposed and raw that even the birth of our Savior won't reconcile.  The true meaning for the celebration has been lost and I couldn't seem to strike a balance between the truth and the fiction.  It was all about my needs, my stress, and my anxieties.  Not once did I consider how my children felt, or even Jesus for that matter.

For weeks, I silently wondered what Jesus would want for his birthday.  A cake, chocolate of course, with lots of lit candles and a choir singing 'Happy Birthday' cheerfully off-tune.  I imagined him asking for us to continue to do his work and pondered what that might look like.  Feeding the for the needy...random thoughts popped in and out of my brain like a pinball game gone awry.

Then it hit me, like a ton of humble bricks, courtesy of the Spirit himself.  Jesus wouldn't want me to cancel Christmas.  He wouldn't want me to cancel Santa.  What Jesus would want was a change of heart for me and my selfish ways.  The celebration of Christmas isn't about me, though with all my whining and complaining you'd think it was, and unless I lost me I wasn't ever going to be able to see Him and his desires.

He wants us to give gifts.  Your circumstances will only dictate how you give those gifts.  Some things can't be wrapped up with a shiny red bow and placed under the Christmas tree.  Some things can only come from your heart.  But how ever you are blessed, give with love.  Don't unwrap the resentment and hatred that Satan desires to gift you.  Resist the urge, no matter how sparkly the box might be.  Don't let the evil in this world take away the most important reason for Christmas Day.  The birth of our Savior.  Our redeemer.  Our everlasting light.  Jesus.

The greatest gift was already given to us.  Let's give back in the ways in which we can and do so with cheerful hearts.  He gave everything he had for us--the very blood in his veins spilled for our sake.  We can't ever repay such a selfless act but we can celebrate the day of his birth with love and meaning and purpose, for I imagine he would want nothing less.


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