On October 16 I drove past some Hispanic children who were waiting for their school bus. (Travel with me now through Betsy’s train of thought.) Knowing that some of our Hispanic neighbors are Catholic, and remembering one front yard that is decorated elaborately every year with a rough stable structure, outlined in bright lights and sheltering figures of the Holy Family, I got from school bus to Christmas in matter of seconds.
A recurring prayer came to mind then, one I have expressed internally more than once. Many of you have had the same wish: for “this Christmas to be different” – more special, more memorable, unique. Not “the same old thing.” Not “going through the motions” without any of it touching or delighting us in the way we recall dimly from childhood, or in the way that those little, red, square, hardcover books on the checkout counters at gift stores tell us someone else was touched by a special Christmas moment.
And then it hit me. Maybe it’s what is the same about Christmas every year that deserves our notice.
Christmas is always the story about the Christ child. It is always the story of how shepherds and angels came to worship and to announce the holy birth. It is always a celebration. It is always about giving gifts because our hearts are full.
My children are in their twenties now and still live nearby. I have observed Christmas changing for them, holding less of the exhilarating mystique it used to hold, with the going to Grandmother’s house for an amazing dinner and the discovery of lots of shiny, new things under the tree. Christmas for these young adults has begun to make that shift that it does for all of us as we cease to be children. That shift is a real grieving, and I experience it still, myself. Do you? But, we adapt. We learn to create the happy settings once created for us by the parents and the grandparents. We embrace an expanding Santa Claus role as the joy of giving becomes as desirable as the joy of getting. We sit down and watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, forming new memories together and enjoying the sweet messages of the season. We attend beautiful, meaningful church services together as adults.
If you already have thoughts about a “same, old” Christmas coming around again on the calendar, and if you think people are talking about it “too early,” consider that “same, old” is not such a bad thing here.
Christmas is the same as it ever was for us in our lifetimes because God the Father is the same and Jesus the Christ is the same. Wrappings and trappings – be they fun, fluffy, or stressful – when cast aside, they reveal a message of Christmas that is the same as it always has been: Love. Forgiveness. Redemption. Emmanuel.
As for old, Christmas was launched approximately 2,015 years ago, but, conceptually, it’s as old as sin.
Wishing you a same, old Christmas that delights you in different, new ways as you plan, ponder, worship, give, and receive.