I sat down to enjoy a cup of cinnamon and ginger tea in the midst of my holiday preparations, which include rearranging furniture, dusting, purging unwanted items and making all things lovely; all part of filling my heart with gratitude for the CHRISTmas child. Mug in hand, feet up on the old cedar chest positioned as a coffee table, I flip on the television.
I normally don’t have enough hours in the day to sit and stare at the silly tube and truthfully, if it were up to me, I would not have one.
Previews of the news flash across the screen with last years images of people packed in like sardines, bodies touching bodies, elbows flinging as they race to be the first ones in the chain stores for Black Friday sales! The newscaster advised that these sales offer great benefit if you want a big screen televisions, snow blowers, dvd players, pop corn poppers, cameras and everything else under fluorescent lights. A little grossed out and sickened by the whole making of Christmas a commercial commodity, I thought to myself, and may have even said aloud, “do these people not get it?”
In my lifetime, I have gone through seasons of lack and seasons of plenty. I have battled the keeping up with the joneses mindset. I have gone through the 30-something angst that somehow my house and my car and my clothes showed my value. I have had businesses, some successful, some that have failed, climbed my way out of debt just to spiral right back down. What have I learned along the way? Life is best when it is simple.
A couple of years ago, our 150 year old house sustained some damage during a storm and we found ourselves having to move out of the lower half of the house while repairs were done. I was forced with the tough decision of having to put my beloved antiques and collectables in storage or selling them. I chose to sell everything. When the repairs were complete on our house, we had no furniture. A relative donated a loveseat and ottoman, which sat in the living room in a big, open space all by themselves for months. I could finally see the beauty and craftsmanship of our old floors.
Why do we identify the keeping of stuff as worthiness? When difficult things happen in our lives, we begin to see more clearly the things that really matter…and I’ll give you a hint…it isn’t things. No sisters, what really matters is getting right with God in your heart and in your head. Once you begin working on this, gratitude will begin to flow from your pores. What can compare to the death of a loved one, a family member with a debilitating illness or a missing person in your family? Seriously, if you are strong enough to weather storms like this, you know that the big screen television is not as important as you once thought. You will know that no matter how much money you waste, trying to fill the hole in your heart with things, you are still hungry. You will know that what matters are the old black and white photos you hang on the wall of your grandma and grandpa kissing in front of the Christmas tree. And you will know that what really matters is the curve of a face in your memory or words that were spoken that you will keep for a lifetime because they encouraged you.
Christmas should not be about things. The first gifts – the ones that were brought to the manger by three wise men – were gifts of awe and gratitude. They knew that a Savior was born, One who would change the hearts of many. One who would redeem the messed up world in which we live. One who could…if we let him, bring peace.
We don’t do Christmas in a big way. We keep it simple and reflect on the true meaning. White lights, like the stars that were shining that special night, and a few brown paper packages. As I dust the 100-year-old dining room table and put in an extra leaf or two, I give thanks. As I sweep the dust bunnies I find hidden under the loveseat, I give thanks. As I shine the bathroom vanity, mop the tile floor and swab the toilet bowl, I give thanks. Setting out my Christmas candles, I give thanks. Lighting the tree for the first time this season, I give thanks. As I pull out the old cardboard box filled with a hand carved wooden manger scene and the baby Jesus, I give thanks. I am preparing my heart for Christmas, the most significant day of my year. The birth of the Christ child.
We gather. We spend precious moments together, breaking bread, celebrating the joy in our hearts at the birth of hope.