Christmas 2011 in Oklahoma is over, barren and snow-free as we slide into a new year and ever so slowly toward Spring. This year things were totally diffferent. Most years I compete with Martha Stewart (just a bit), sewing, gluing, crocheting, producing whatever unique and “thoughtful” gifts for friends and family, including every oddball little sweet treat I can concoct.
Yet this time, partially because of extenuating circumstances this year, it just wasn’t possible to “knock myself out” producing little remembrances and expressions of how much I care, for each person I know, like, live near, work with, and am related to. (or is that “to whom I am related”?) And I fought within myself. I struggled. I felt like a lowly worm, not having gifts for friends. I apologized to my kids, to the grandchildren, to my closest friends. Funny, no one seemed to notice or really to care.
But I’ve prayed for so long to see Christmas in a totally different way. I know, like most of you do, that we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Not the birth of Santa, or the birth of all our gift-giving. The miraculous birth out of time, well planned by God and Jesus before they ever completed Creation. THAT is what we celebrate. All the songs say “the real meaning of Christmas is…” and complete it with so many different phrases, none of them seem to quite hit the mark.
Last year, I was presented with the most wonderful gift. Vernon, my husband, designed and built for me a wooden manger for the Christ child to place in our living room in place of a Christmas tree. I’ve waited for it for some time, and even had in reserve the swaddling cloth that I spent several days searching for until I found just the right texture and color. So I rummaged through my dwindling stores of childhood memorabilia–I keep passing bits of it to the kids every time they come around, so there won’t be much left to divide up when I’m gone. And I dug out my tiny, lifelike looking and feeling Thumbelina from 1961 and completed coloring her blonde hair black–so that little baby Jesus would look authentically Jewish in His manger. Not sure who started the dye job, possibly a daughter prone to fashion and design of every doll, including face painting and tattooing the dolls of her sisters, too. Anyway, nothing against Christmas trees; in fact, I’m sure I’ll have one this coming year. But the manger sitting in the place of honor seemed to have the right impact to me.
You can’t just honor the miracle of the Creator of the universe showing up in the middle of a group of shepherds in a tiny Bethlehem stable to a young unmarried teenager with a little plastic nativity set stuck on a corner table somewhere as an afterthought. His plan to come here and experience the life as we lead it, face the same challenges and temptations, and manage to carry the sins of every human being to the cross and bury them there for all eternity–doesn’t that seem huge to you? More than just a little “Gee, thanks” is due, don’t you think?
Why it hasn’t hit me this way before I have no idea. I’ve always appreciated the birth of Christ and tried to MAKE it meaningful to me and to my kids. But somehow until last year and this year even more, it just didn’t hit home.
Now that we’ve gone through this exercise, it’s changed me. And ‘though I may display a tree, bake cookies, give gifts to those I love, and celebrate is many accepted ways, I’ll spend a lot more time contemplating His coming and what it cost Him. And somehow my little part in honoring the manger and the Baby help me do that. Hope you had a Blessed Christmas.