I usually enjoy the end of year holiday season. It is a time when so many people are able to think in a positive way sharing gifts and spending time with each other. If we can get past the materialistic components it is a wonderful time. It is really about the perspective that I have when I consider what Christmas means to me.
I do not buy gifts though Mimi will always get something for the grandchildren. That is a good thing, it is always joyful to see their eyes shine as they open a box and see something they really wanted.
These day I enjoy simple things. I recognize that as a child and in my early adult life I often dreamed of nice gifts but as I grew older I began to think that purchased gifts are less important.
I think about my mother talking about receiving a rag doll for Christmas. It was a torn and worn doll that she had for a long time. One day she could not find it and it reappeared on Christmas day. My grandma had taken the doll and repaired it. My mother talked about her disappointment about the gift that day. Yes, as a child I could understand that disappointment but now I can see how precious that gift was as it was a gift of love. Unfortunately my mother could never get past her disappointment for her entire life.
Over the years I have watched as the children and grandchildren open their gifts. Husbands and wives try to present something significant to the other and children gifts are often extravagant. One child may count the gifts, measuring one against another while another may offer one of their gifts to someone who received less. Could it be possible the love is measured by the quality of the gift under the tree? I cannot judge as when the children were little I would borrow money each year in order to put nice gifts under the tree on Christmas day.
Parallel to this the season is adorned with decorations and lights. There is always the scenes of the manger in the stable with the baby, mother, father, animals and wise men to replicate the birth of the divine baby. Christmas songs are sang while, for just a few days, people raise their spirits and pray to Jesus to bless their future.
It would be wrong and hypocritical for me to criticize people for what they do or don’t do on Christmas. Rather, I can just reinforce my current thoughts that the greatest gift anyone can give is love, it is a gift that keeps on giving. During Christmas we can take a moment to remember what Jesus taught us. The lesson is so simple but generally misunderstood. His lesson was also a gift, a lesson and gift of unconditional love. He taught us to break from traditional teaching and religious rules to instead focus on God. Jesus showed us that we could learn about God from a speaker on a hillside and not be constrained to attendance in temples and synagogues. He also taught us the magic of love by feeding the multitudes with just a few fish and loafs of bread.
I don’t think Jesus would have wanted people to celebrate his birth or his death as he was too humble and non assuming for that. I do think that he would have seen what the future would hold and he would have accepted even the misunderstanding of his teaching because it was more important to end the extreme religious practice of animal sacrifice that often meant the suffering of families that sold their children to pay for the pilgrimages to the temples to make those sacrifices.
I remember a time when the Angels came to help me give a briefing to an Air Force Colonel. The Colonel was known to be very difficult and often shouted at and insulted people giving him briefings. On that day, in that room, it was a very peaceful moment. He later told me that I was like the Billy Goat in the movie Sea Biscuit for him, meaning I helped him relax. This is what happens in the presence of Angels; it is also what happens in the presence of love.
For me, the Christmas holiday is the time to renew our love for each other. It is a time to set aside our grievances and come together as families, communities, nation and world. It is a time to reaffirm our love of ourselves, God, and others. Love creates more love.
Always remember, God loves you always, infinitely and unconditionally.