That Christmas Eve, I had just finished my first, absolutely fantastic, semester of college. I had played in a string quartet at a Christmas service. Presents were wrapped, guests were coming in to spend the holiday, and it seemed a quintessential Christmas celebration.
But it wasn't. Through the whole weekend I, and my family, savored every moment. Petty disputes were dismissed, and trivial mishaps ignored. We were together. For how long, we didn't know. I don't remember what gift I got, or what gift I gave, but I remember being there all together. Through Christmas day, neighbors and friends dropped by, to celebrate Christmas with us.
Here I am, three years later. I've just finished my seventh semester of college, and really well for me, all things considered. I just played a string quartet service with my siblings. The presents are wrapped, and the house is ready for the impending arrival of the guests. It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Dinner guests and engagements, staff meetings and Christmas parties- life is busy. But I don't want to forget what is truly important. What Christmas is really about. It's about the birth of a deity, come down to man, to save us from ourselves. God gave his "only begotten son", so that we may have eternal life.
I think the key word is gave. God gave, and so should we. Christmas is about giving- maybe giving presents to family, but so much more than just that. It's about giving love to the unloved. It's about giving cheer to the unhappy. It's about giving kindness to the forgotten.
This Christmas, give outside your normal giving zone. Maybe you always give to the Salvation Army bell ringer- that's great, but perhaps it's time to go a little beyond that. Maybe give a gift to a hurting or needy family. Buy some items of a non-profit's Amazon Wish List. If you're short on the cash, give of your time. Volunteer at the City Mission or Haven of Rest; cook dinner at the Ronald McDonald House. Walk the dogs at One of a Kind Pet Rescue. Clean the home of an elderly friend. Invite a lonely person to share your Christmas dinner.
The weekend before that Christmas Eve, I had spent in the hospital, following a spleen biopsy. That was one of my most memorable hospital stays. I was there technically just for observation, so I was free to roam around. Rachel stayed with me, and with our reindeer antlers we owned the halls. We made K-cups of Starbucks coffee, ordered all sorts of food, and happily watched Hallmark movies. It was a special sister weekend, even if it was spent in a hospital. At that point, I knew the cancer had returned, but didn't know the specifics. We both knew it was a last hurrah before I would be back in the throws of treatment. And I saw Santa Claus. I know he isn't real, and I've never believed in him. But that Christmas, I needed something childish and fantastical to believe in. Reality was overwhelming, so I entered the magical fairy tale of Santa Claus, and became obsessed with him. My child-life helped me Skype with Santa, a very special memory!
But I was blessed to be able to be home for Christmas. There are many who aren't so blessed. They'll be spending Christmas in a hospital room. Their four bleak walls bear no Christmas cheer. They long for the company of their family and friends. Maybe go sing some carols, or take some small Christmas present in a fun wrapping paper. I think this Christmas carol is a fitting end:
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.
This Christmas, may there be room in all our hearts for the reason for Christmas, Jesus.