Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Stop in your tracks and let Christmas find you

My newest column on The Holmes Bargain Hunter touches on whether we actually feel Christmas. I'm choosing to revel in it. 

Christmas week, in all its grandeur and preparation, has arrived on hushed wings in the night. As we are rushing around to gather last minute stocking gifts and food to prepare, the time to celebrate our Lord – tiny yet mighty – has arrived in full flush. Twinkling lights meet my eyes as I gaze upon the nativity scene I put up every year. Bought back in the 90s, my manger scene is lovely with its rustic stable and glass figurines. Every year I threaten to paint the baby Jesus hair because I know that someone made a mistake somewhere. Baby Jesus was definitely not a blonde. Even so, he is nestled deep in his manger while Mary and Joseph stand guard, a stout shepherd herds his sheep nearby, and the colorful wisemen are so very nearly there to bring their gifts from afar. Along with gifts and sparkly lights on the tree, this nativity scene is here to remind me that Christmas, above all else, is to remind us there is a savior.

What is something you remember from your Christmas’s past? Childhood memories flood through me and like scenes from a silent movie I browse through them, sifting and sorting, until the most precious moments come to me. I remember our stockings hung over the mantle with the fire gently burning. Stocking gifts were like tiny treasures, all wrapped up in their miniature splendor. Each one was opened and savored. To this day, my kids take turns opening one stocking gift at a time so the magic is extended precious minute by minute. From my memory banks comes the Christmas my dad made us handcrafted items. My younger sister received a dollhouse, replete with carpet and curtains, while I received a tiny homemade cupboard filled with plastic fruits and vegetables, plus boxes of pretend cereal and soup. The hours we played with these were endless. When I was 12 years old, we opened a box that contained an Atari system and the shrieking commenced. I played it hours on end that break and Space Invaders and I became the closest of friends. 

Most of all, though, I remember time spent with family. Our big event is Christmas Eve when all my sisters and their families get together for our grand shindig. We graze appetizers and exchange gifts. We always went caroling through mom and dad’s neighborhood as a pack, our voices ringing through Berlin, and when they moved it was never quite the same. I remember the excitement when my brother would make the trek home to spend Christmas with us. He brought so much life to the gatherings and when he left us too soon, there was a hole in the festivities that was never quite filled. One by one we got married and added brothers-in-law to Christmases and our numbers grew. Christmas Eve, though, is the one time – no matter how many times it’s hard to get together throughout the year – that we all gather. We make memories for the new generation.

Christmas Rush on Behance

So as you’re rushing through the store for that one final gift, or baking the umpteenth batch of sugar cookies, stop in your tracks. Look around and let Christmas wash over you in a fresh way. Drain from your mind the anxiety we feel to provide the most perfect of Christmases. See your children, really see them. Find your husband or wife and look in their eyes, really look. This is where Christmas is. It’s in our loved ones that co-exist beside us. The ones we sometimes don’t see as we are rushing to Christmas day in a haze of wrapping paper and sweets. It’s not in the perfectly decorated homes we seek. Sometimes it’s in the tangled cords of lights that just won’t come unraveled, balls of knots that still shine so brightly and beautifully that its beauty is piercing. Let go of these expectations and really feel Christmas because all too soon it’s gone - tucked away along with the straggly bits of tinsel to be brought out next year. Moments, wrapped in dark corners of twinkly-lit kitchens, kisses lavished on precious cheeks, and deep chats around the tree with nearly grown children. This is Christmas. This is what we seek along with the ravishing birth of our savior. Don’t let it pass you by.