All of us that celebrate Christmas look back upon the holiday season with great fondness. When we were young it was a magical time when our parents adorned our houses with garlands, blinking lights and all manner of Christmas themed memorabilia. We helped decorate the Christmas tree and excitedly anticipated that incredible day when Santa would somehow traverse the earth delivering gifts to all of the children of the world. As we got older Christmas never lost its joy for us as we got to produce a repeat performance for our children. We gladly scoured the earth in search of the famous doll or the other coveted toy and generally spent more than we had in the process. We began to learn that everyone didn’t celebrate Christmas and had other holidays and traditions instead. And it was okay. Some people believed that it was Jesus Christ’s birthday while others associated it with the movements of the sun. For some, the dates were arranged slightly different and the holiday encompassed a number of days. It seemed only reasonable that with all of the people in the entire world, there would be varying practices and vastly different beliefs. And it was okay. Rather than try to make the holiday season into something deeply spiritual or sacred it seemed more reasonable to accept it for what it really is; a time when people celebrate their love for one another; a time when people are a little more kind and a little more compassionate towards their fellow man. For me the holidays have always been a happy time when folks treasured the joy of giving over receiving and seeking to do nice things for others instead of seeking only to receive nice things instead. Adult children return home from other states and other countries to spend time with the people they love most. We gather at each other’s homes and celebrate the season with various libations and all kinds of delightful foods. And for the time we are thankful, thankful for the people we love, thankful for the lives we get to live and thankful to God who made it all. We take a pause from all of our frenetic activity, slow down and appreciate one another.
For some the holiday season is a painful time of remembering love lost and times long past. It points back to a happier or more simple time when life didn’t feel so complicated and confusing. It reminds us of our childhood when our quests and desires were single and the things we needed came to us readily. Our lives seemed to be a grand adventure and with excited anticipation we lived our days and loved our days. No matter our expression then and now we failed to realize that it wasn’t Christmas time or the holiday season that filled our hearts with joy. It was the change in how we approached life and how we viewed our fellow man. For whatever reason, whether religious or otherwise, we changed our approach and in so doing unlocked the love that lives in all of us and sought to share that love with others. We softened our hearts and allowed the compassion that resides in our hearts to come to the forefront. We decided to set aside petty differences for love’s sake and to esteem others as more important than ourselves. For love’s sake we were willing to be second and even third. Our hearts thrilled at the prospect of giving something that might cause a little happiness to rise up in the hearts of others, especially those we love. It was Christmas after all.
The lesson of the holiday, those happy holidays is that there is another approach to life that benefits us and leads us to joy. There is an alternate way to live that is willing to let go of self for a time and focus in on someone else. Whether it be in giving to another person or choosing kindness even when kindness is not deserved, there is always a benefit that comes back to us gift wrapped and better in proportion to what we gave. Thinking well of others and being willing to listen to them and really hear them is the very essence of humanity, a sacrifice with which God is well pleased. The holiday season, though heavily commercialized and pressured, serves a a microcosm of how life can be enjoyed when the focus of our hearts reaches outward instead of inward. God so designed life to benefit the giver in whatever form that giver gives and in so benefiting them, encourage its continuance. There is a reason you feel so good when your focus changes and the reason is always love. “Love sees more but is willing to see less.” Love gives in spite of not because of. Love is full of forgiveness and compassion because love comes from God. The person that loves in whatever way they can love is always rewarded and blessed. Love is always the answer, not just during the holiday season but for all seasons.
I wish all of you a wonderful and loving holiday season. Treasure those people God has blessed you with and love them, really love them, not because they are deserving of your love but because they aren’t. Change your mind, change your approach and see if you do not experience that same joy no matter the season. It was never Christmas or any other holiday tradition that filled your heart with love, it was you and the decision you made to love. Unload your troubles on to God where they belong and take the time to listen to your fellow man, your spouse, your children. Listen for their hearts and see if you can’t do something to help them lighten their load. We all dream of a world where love and kindness take first place and while that day may still be future, we can be that for people today. Enjoy your days ahead with your families and all of the people that you love. It’s not the gifts and the trimmings, it’s the love. Be kind to your family even that wayward one you simply tolerate. Take some thought for the things of others. Be helpful, be kind, be those things your heart desires. There will still be some drama and some arguments because the people you love, love you also and sometimes that expression gets missed and confused. When it’s done take the time to heal the wounds and make things right. Those are the people that God has given you and maybe there is something you can do to help them. There is nothing quite like the holiday season and for that I am always grateful. Happy Holidays everyone. I love you.
Just some good thoughts…