December 23, 2016

And So, This Is Christmas...

All around, the sights and the sounds of the season are upon us.  The music is playing, the lights are blinking, the decorations are out in full force.  Churches are lighting the Advent wreath and preparing for cantatas and plays, people are baking the tree-shaped cookies, and there’s the usual holiday cheer and enthusiasm on people’s faces.

But, me?  I’m just not feeling it.

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m completely aware of two very important points: 

1) We don’t need to be “feeling it” to sincerely worship and celebrate the Savior who’s come and who is to come.  Job is evidence enough of that, and I’m making the conscious effort to sincerely worship, despite my emotional state.

2) I’m not the only one who’s not “feeling it” this season, and there are people out there who are dealing with things far more difficult.  It’s something we’d all be wise to keep in mind, so that we can extend the open arm of comfort, understanding, and friendship.

Those realities considered though, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not feeling it.

Nothing captures the anticipation and expectation of the Christmas season quite like watching our children endure the wait.  They so look forward to the experience of Christmas day that they’re almost bursting at the seams from Black Friday on.  Even if they know and understand the realities of the holiday, its purpose, and its traditions, this still tends to hold true, in my experience.

On the other hand, as I’ve witnessed especially during my time here in Cairo, there are few things more heartbreaking than when children have to try to come to grips with the fact that, due to financial hardships, family strife, or other circumstances, there’s going to be little to nothing to experience and look forward to on Christmas Day.  That’s one of the reasons why I’m so proud and grateful that my congregation strives to reach out and provide to kids in this situation each year that we’re able, whether it be through buying gifts for one family, donating to the Grady County Help Agency for this purpose, or other means.

Unfilled anticipation is heart-wrenching. 

And, that’s where I’m at right now.  That’s why I’m not feeling it.  Unfulfilled anticipation.

Anticipating much about the Christmas season outside of the joy that comes with telling the story again isn’t normal for me.  I love getting together with my family and friends to celebrate, of course, but that’s the extent of it, really.  As far as the extras of Christmas (the music, the movies, the lights, the atmosphere, etc.) being particularly special, like they are to so many, it usually doesn’t translate for me.   Oh, I love it all, but I’m fully aware that there are others who really get into the seasonal traditions with full force, and I’m glad that they do.  Honestly, they help to make the season a little brighter for all of us.

But, this Christmas was supposed to be different.  I was really looking forward to this Christmas season clear back in the spring and summer.    All those things I mentioned earlier, that I enjoy, but that aren’t particularly extra special?  They were going to be special this year.

You see, it’s not really those things themselves that are special, it’s the experiences, and the experiences are special because of who we experience them with. 

I love my family dearly, but we don’t really make a huge deal out of Christmas anymore.  We don’t do too much gift exchanging, and decorating is limited due to limited space and material.  If we were to decide to make a huge deal out of Christmas now, it’d feel forced.  We all love Christmas, of course, but we just don’t get as heavily into the cultural observances as we once did.

But, she does, and that's what I was looking forward to.  That's what I was anticipating.  Christmas with her.  With us.  Our Christmas.

But, she’s not with me anymore.  My anticipation has gone unfulfilled.  

I'll spare you the details, for a variety of reasons, but suffice it to say that the things I was looking forward to this Christmas don't hold the excitement they did before my anticipation lay shattered at my feet.

Like I said, there are more important things about Christmas, and thankfully, they’re not dependent upon feelings for us to be wholly engaged in them.  But, there’s still value to be found in these other things.  I was anticipating experiencing that value in a fresh, new fashion.  But, that’s not happening now, and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me this year.

Good thing we walk by faith, and not by feelings.

If there’s a point to be taken from this line of thought, I suppose it would be this:  look upon your fellow man with a compassionate heart, whether that be your family, your friends, your acquaintances, your coworkers, the shoppers talking and blocking the aisle, or the harried servers and cashiers.  

Everyone has a story to tell this Christmas, and those stories won’t all be filled with holiday cheer.  There’s stress, sorrow, sadness, and even separation mingled in with what might be very little cheer.  For many, their anticipation, in one way or another, has gone unfulfilled.

We believers, of all people, have the capacity, thanks to the Holy Spirit’s help, to treat our neighbors with respect, compassion, and love.  That may just be the greatest gift you can give this Christmas; and I promise you, it’s the greatest gift that someone out there could receive.  What's more, it points them towards the eternal Gift, whose coming we commemorate and anticipate this season.

No comments:

Post a Comment