Remember when we were kids and how exciting it was to go back to school and we’d make a list of all the great stuff Santa had brought us? Barbie dolls, a red wagon, a BB gun, fruit, candy and a huge ham and cakes of all kinds for Christmas dinner. Dad would say the blessing and carve the ham.
That is not what my childhood Christmas was all about. Dad was away in the war and any extra money went to pay for the heat in the house and food like beans, potatoes, bread and milk, not toys. It seemed like life sucked because I didn’t have all those things other kids had. Dad eventually came home from the war and the warmth of his presence and his love was worth any sacrifice.
Remember how our mothers were the heart of Christmas, creating it’s meaning for all of us? The shopping, the baking, the decorating, the wonderful secrets and always, always going to midnight communion which gave us the joyous peace that mothers know it will? But then mother died and Christmas became lonely and fake and life sucked. At some point, I can’t tell you when or why, I began to do all of the same wonderful things with my children and we began to build on the foundation mother had provided, making it stronger with each new memory we created as a family. Her legacy gives us joy and peace, keeping her close, and I believe – happy, always.
Then we grow up and realize that life can suck on any given day with or without notice. This hurts and with the pain, memories of what is good and right in our life are swept away by the uncertainty of just how much adversity one can withstand.
In the Charlie Brown Christmas Special where Charlie Brown asks about the meaning of Christmas and Linus, blanket in hand, explains, “And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'”. (Luke 2:10).
Like Charlie Brown, we may shout, “What’s the big deal about Christmas?”
It seems to promise good things, but bad things still happen.
It appears that many of us may not be sure what Christmas is all about either.
But if we only seek the meaning, we discover it really is all around us.
Linus ends his explanation by simply saying, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” If we all could have the faith of Linus, life would still sometimes suck, but we would gain some of that peace on earth and good will toward others as we realize that the good in our lives gets us through those bad times.
God gave us His son, Jesus who suffered and died for us of His own free will: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son… .” (John 3:16).
If we think about that, we can find hope in the will of people everywhere, every day, who give their lives freely for others so that others might live. A friend of mine gave her husband her kidney so he might live, a sister gave her sister her bone marrow which put her cancer in remission, a young firefighter died of smoke inhalation but managed to rescue an 87 year old great grandmother, troops every day give their lives so we are safe. The reality of Christmas is the understanding that God doesn’t prevent bad things from happening, but He does provide us with comfort and support as He guides us through the bad times, often using those around us to help us.
In the first days of my widowhood, Kathy, Tammie and Rosita called me every day, ignoring that I often didn’t answer the phone or return their calls. Still their calls continued, every day, until I began to answer the phone and I began to call them back; God at work through people.
Christmas is about accepting that bad things are just going to happen, and having the faith that God is there every moment. Anyone can be thankful when times are good, but maintaining our faith and belief in God through the bad times will give us strength to persevere and to eventually recognize and to be grateful for the goodness that still exists in our lives.
And that, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.