Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Celebration of Christ's Birth: Constant or Capricious?

Christmas.  For me, it used to be a series of memorable feelings.  Feelings of reminiscence—every time I gazed at the little red painted sleds hanging as ornaments on the Christmas tree with my name and those of my siblings, painted there by a hand unknown to me but returning for their annual debut on the freshly-cut evergreen.  Feelings of nostalgia—whenever I heard “White Christmas” playing in a local supermarket and wondered about the bygone days of its composition when, as youths, my great uncle and grandfather had fought the Nazis overseas.  Feelings of excitement--as my parents took shopping trips closer to the 25th and left us with babysitters for the evening, I anticipated the presents that would greet me under the tree on Christmas morning. 

When Christmas day dawned, I expected happiness, delight, and complete fulfillment.  A sibling uttered an unkind remark; but on Christmas, I didn’t retaliate.  It was a day to be cherished, remembered for many years to come.  If I believed in magic, I would say that the day, beginning the evening before, was shrouded in a cloak of enchantment, a spell not to be broken by any.

Holidays were always special times in our home, the unwritten rules of generosity, kindness, and love sensed deeply by each of us children.  Awakening on Christmas morning, I would feed the animals in the barn, reminded by my father to “give the cows some extra bedding and a few more slabs of hay, since it’s Christmas.”  Arriving back in my room, I’d often take my Bible to read the Christmas passage in Luke 2 or Matthew 1, which I had highlighted, every other verse in red and green.  Later, our family would gather and read the Christmas story, as a tradition, before opening gifts.  To me, Christmas was sacred.

If an argument or disagreement happened on another day, so be it.  But on Christmas?  Woe be to him who breaks the holiday spirit and enters into contentious territory on that day!  To one and all, he is deemed an unfeeling clod who understands not the joy Christmas.

However, when I married my husband, a steady, focused, spiritually-minded man, I was amazed that holidays did not seem to hold the special charm that they did for me; in fact, he was frequently employed at his place of work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  His common view of these days, at first, bewildered me.  Then, it disappointed me.  Then it frustrated me.  Then, I wrapped myself around its reality and decided to accept it joyfully.

While I have never known my husband to wait for the holiday spirit to descend upon him, he carries with him a joyful contentment all year round, so that, in our place of residence, every day carries the “magic” of Christmas that I so long cherished on that day each year.  He has made our home a place of singing, determined to offer God praise often (Psalm 146:2), so one would think that every day was Thanksgiving Day.  He treats me specially so frequently that, to the unknowing observer, one would think each of the 365 days was a time of celebration and excitement. 

As an adult, I see the materialism that has entrapped Christmas in its common celebration in the public.  And, less and less do I wait for a feeling to descend upon me before I decorate for this season, prepare for its celebration, or shop for Christmas gifts.  For while Christmas is always a special time with family and a season to reflect on Christ’s birth, that magical spirit I always expected on holidays has been replaced by another reality.

That I can walk with God, live in His presence, and be accepted in the beloved every day is the incarnation’s actuality and the essence of the Christmas spirit, which had only been a transitory feeling in the past, stirred up by sentimental memory.  Growing up, I had frequently spent some time with God every morning.  But when I married my husband, he didn’t want me to miss a day that I didn’t read the Bible meaningfully and pray sincerely in quiet.  It was hard to slow myself down enough to be still before God, but as I did, I noticed an amazing relationship between my spirit and my time with God.  The more time I spent abiding in God’s presence, the more a daily joy accompanied me every day.  That “magical” spirit that I had hoped and dreamed for on special holidays could enfold me all the year through. 

Through my husband’s godly leadership, I have learned that the euphoric atmosphere of a joyous holiday lives on, not only once or twice a year, but every day, by abiding in the presence of the King who came to earth as a tiny infant that I might be “to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made [me] accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6).