December is once again upon us. December brings with it the commercialization of the holiday, the gaudy and even tasteless Christmas décor full of light, sound, tinsel and garland. There is the traditional fight for the “true” Christmas, whether it is the Christ-child born on Christmas day or the annual arrival of St. Nicholas on housetops bringing gifts for the children. Is it about gifts and holiday glory, or is it about “peace on earth and good will towards men”?
To be honest with you, it’s all about to wear me out. I’ve been around this globe for 40+ years. I’ve been the kid expectantly waiting at the Christmas Tree. I’ve been the parent trying to provide the same experience for my own children. I’ve been the pastor trying to keep the “Reason for the Season” front and center during the worship services and have been disgusted at the reduction of the “holiday season” to dollars and cents for retailers. Like Thanksgiving, there is a reminder of those who will not be present this year. Depression goes up during the holidays without question. We miss them, and for good reason. Our loved ones made the holiday, the “holy days” special because we shared with them our hopes and dreams, our laughter and joy. Now, even if they had given us gifts we never liked, we would give much to see them all over again.
My grandmother always knitted sweaters for us during the rest of the year, and gave them away as presents for Christmas. Even though I never truly appreciated those sweaters when she was alive, I would treasure even the tiniest doily today, because it was from her hands. I’ve outgrown all those sweaters, but I wish I had kept just one. That annual tradition of hers was part of my understanding of what Christmas was about, and now its lost. I mourn this loss, and know that I will not see her face again until Jesus calls me home. I say to myself, “if only I’d known then what I know now.”
I’m afraid that as we get older, it is this thought of regret that can characterize our thinking during the holidays. It can be a stain on us and our celebration because we are thinking about the past, feeling the past pulling us backward to a time we cannot recover. But this is selfish. Did not my grandmother have memories too of her childhood? Did she not, while she knitted those many sweaters, have memories of her childhood, when she received such gifts from her grandmother? Didn’t she grieve? Didn’t she weep at a sudden powerful memory? But instead of dwelling on her past, she invested in her present, so that the next generation would have fond memories of her, not her grief.
Make this holiday season a joyous one for the sake of those who follow us. Let us remind them of Christ’s first advent, so that they will be ready for His second.