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Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve has always been my favorite time of year. I know it’s hard to believe, since it’s not 100 degrees outside, but usually cold and wet. Thankfully, I only have to deal with the California cold and not the Midwest kinda cold and wet.
When I was growing up, this time of year was all about getting ready for our visit from Santa Claus. The Christmas tree would go up within a week after Thanksgiving. We would all help decorate the tree while listening to Christmas music. I loved singing along to ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’. My favorite story to hear was ‘The Night Before Christmas’.
This was the only time of year I cared to look at the newspaper and magazines, because I wanted to make things as easy as possible for my parents and Santa Cause. I circled, with a fat black marker, everything I hoped to receive for Christmas.
One year, when my brother and I started looking for our gifts, my mom decided to come up with a foolproof plan to discourage us from snooping. Instead of putting a name on the package, she put a number on it. It stayed that way until she handed the presents out on Christmas morning. It was a great idea, but unfortunately, my mom always lost, or misplaced, the list where she wrote which presents went to who. As you can imagine, it added a new level of fun to Christmas morning.
Once I had kids, the fun of Christmas became an expensive and stressful chore. Before I could put the tree up, I had to clean and resituate the room where it would go. The perfect presents needed to be purchased. The perfect holiday pictures had to taken and sent to everyone we knew. Plans for get-togethers had to be made. The more Christmas parties we went to, the more outfits I needed to buy, for everyone. We couldn’t wear the same thing as last year, people would remember.
Then one year, just before the Christmas season, I was invited to a Women of Faith conference in San Jose. I had never been to a conference before. Curious what this conference was all about, I looked it up on the internet. The title of the conference was John 3:16. I didn’t recognize anyone who was listed to speak or perform, so this was of little help. I remember thinking “I wonder who this John guy is and what happened to him on Mach 16th.” I know your probably laughing, but that’s how clueless I was.
When the conference started, someone came out welcoming everyone. They said the conference was based on John 3:16 and began to read. What they were reading was posted up on the screens all around the room.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
As I soaked in and processed this message, I had many questions swirling around my head. “Who’s God’s Son and why in the world would He give him to us, the world?” I was starting to think God was a little on the nutty side.
That night, on the ride home from the conference, one of the ladies I went with invited me to her church. I went that Sunday and continued going through the Christmas season, and was able to hear what the Christmas season was all about. That year I realized I had heard the Christmas message every year for most of my life, but had never understood what it meant. I was so caught up with the world’s expectations of Christmas, that I couldn’t see the message that was right in front of me all those years.
Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who was given to us by God, so we can experience peace, great joy and have eternal life. God the Father, loves each of us so much, that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, down to earth, for us. Jesus’s birth was a miracle, born of the virgin Mary and the carpenter Joseph.
Since learning and understanding the meaning of Christmas, my favorite stories to read are now The Christmas Story or The Birth of Jesus.
I still put up a tree, wear holiday colors (red, green, silver & gold) buy presents and plan holiday gatherings. The only difference is my attitude while doing it. It’s no longer a stressful chore. I’m celebrating the birth of Jesus, my savior. He was the ultimate gift given to me, and to you. This brings me peace and fills me with great joy. Joy that I wish to spread to others throughout this Christmas season. I wish I could tell the world about the great love God has for them and the great joy He can fill them with, if they would only believe that Jesus was sent as a gift to them. A gift for all the world!
I hope you experience peace and joy this holiday season.
Up until five years ago I thought Christmas was all about Santa Claus, decorating trees and presents. Lots and lots of presents, which meant lots and lots of shopping. The greeting I gave this time of year was always, and still is, ‘Merry Christmas’.
My Christmas was all about planning for the arrival of the fat jolly guy in the red suit who lived at the North Pole with the elves making presents all year long. As a child I worried about whether or not I was on Santa’s naughty list. I always made a Christmas wish list for Santa. To make sure he knew exactly what I wanted, I would tape a picture of the item and list the stores where he could get it.
Now my Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, my Lord and Savior. We still do the same things at Christmas. We still decorate a tree and shop for presents. I do feel different though. I notice things I never noticed before, like the to-do list of things that most people could care less if I do or not. The to-do list is something that brings stress, not joy, to my life. This year I decided not to do a few of my to-do list items. I’m not sending out Christmas cards and we didn’t even attempt to make baked goodies this year.
I find myself being bothered by the extra long hours many stores are open. I use to love it because it gave me extra time to shop. Now I feel sad for the employees who must work extra hours instead of being home with their families. I do realize some families look forward to working the extra hours, but I still think the stores have gone a little too far. Shopping on Thanksgiving Day and in the middle of the night, I think, is not necessary.
Last week at church the sermon was about not being haunted by Christmas present. We were challenged to buy less presents and be more present. I love that! I think the most valuable gift you can give someone is your time. That doesn’t mean you can’t give gifts. You can make them. There are so many great gifts to give that can be made. Pinterest is full of great ideas. I know its kind of late in the game this year to decide to make Christmas gifts, but think about it for future Birthdays, Anniversaries and certainly for next Christmas.
Whether you celebrate the birth of Jesus, Santa Claus, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, nothing or whatever it might be, I wish you and your family a season filled with love, joy, peace and togetherness.
My prayer for us today ~ May God who understands each need, who listens to every prayer, bless you and keep you in His tender loving care, Amen