Monday, December 16, 2013
MONDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2013
I used to think that Christmas was my favorite time of the year. We had certain traditions that bound my family to that holiday and, at least to me, in ways that were unchangeable. Those traditions created the ways that Christmas was supposed to be celebrated. I was supposed to sleep on my special Christmas pillowcase -- red with candy canes and printed with nutcrackers and Christmas trees. I was supposed to go to the candlelight service at my church on Christmas Eve and return home to receive my special Christmas pajamas -- usually a matching pair for both me and my sister and, eventually, my husband. And the smells... my mother and grandmother had been cooking for days, and the house provided evidence of spices, turkey, and, of course, fresh-brewed coffee by 6:00 a.m. the morning after Santa came to visit.
My sister and I would have to wait until all of my family was in the den before we were allowed to walk in and see what Santa had brought. Once we were told it was time, we would walk in, matching pajamas and all, to see the gifts Santa had left. There were cameras and flashes, food and drinks, laughing and exchanging of gifts.
Looking back on those memories, I understand why I loved them so much. Selfishly, it's because -- even into my twenties -- my Christmas celebrations were about me. I received, and I ate, and I loved being with my family, but my traditions were just that... mine. It was my tradition. My mom and grandparents loved seeing us happy and loved the warmth that watching the kids brought with it.
But as always in growing older, my tradition has changed. My grandparents moved from the house that I considered my home and passed away in the same year. Traditions had to shift, and that Christmas was rough.
One of the things I remember most when my grandmother was so sick was that she believed as things changed, God was working and that there was a purpose to all of it... in deaths, in births, in life itself.
The following Christmas, I began to understand what it was like to be on the other end of the Christmas celebration. As a parent, I began to understand what it was like to celebrate a day that is all about someone else and not myself. Her laughter and amazement at all that was happening around her stirred up a different kind of fulfillment and understanding of the season -- one that I was not used to. Seeing my girl, Caedie, smile when she saw the Christmas tree and the gifts underneath was worth every bit of change that I experienced.
Thinking through this change in tradition makes me wonder. I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of Christ, finding joy in His birth and life in His gift, but I wonder what it's like to truly make this gift not about me. How much time this season have I really embraced this understanding and reached out -- allowing the smile of another to be worth all of the change that I experienced? How often have I intentionally allowed myself to be lost in an effort to allow someone else to receive the gift that Christ is offering -- rather than making it a gift all about me?
- Nicki Brewer