Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A "Good" Christmas


      
     We all have personal notions of what constitutes a "good Christmas." On the 26th, greetings will be followed with the inquiry, "Did you have a good Christmas?" Your response will certainly be based on some criteria. What makes a Christmas "good?" Was it the cutting (or unpacking) of a Christmas tree and then adorning the limbs with memorable ornaments?Was it the cookies baked whose aroma delightfully permeates the room? Was it the cards sent and received? Was it the dinner that brought family and friends in unity? Was it the gifts beneath the tree? Was it the warm and welcoming decor? Was it the cheer, joy, goodwill, and generosity of the season? Was it the day or the season?

      What happens when our answer or even an element of our answer is removed? For instance, a "good Christmas" could be defined as time with family. However, circumstances may arise at some point which limits the presence of family member(s) on Christmas Eve/Day. Does Christmas as we have defined it then become "bad?" If our association of Christmas is so tightly wrapped around particular activities or sentiments then we risk arriving at the day and feeling like it was somehow lacking. 

       There are countless sentiments and means of celebration associated with Christmas, many good and honorable notions. What is at the heart of of all of these though? I began to see this year a commonality in that they aren't exclusive to this one time of year. In fact, they are merely a different representation of the same heart. So many of the Christmas activities are ones that are (ought to be) exhibited throughout the year. I'll only take a moment to list a few of my notions of Christmas, but really wish to encourage you to take a moment to sort through your association of Christmas and begin to place them into  the following cluster headings:


Relationship Building
*Cards of greeting, goodwill, encouragement, and perhaps even a letter
*baking/cooking together
*dinner parties with friends
*sipping cocoa during a movie together
*decorating a gingerbread house together
*offering a neighbor, service man/woman, retirement home resident etc a visit and homemade treat
*packing into a vehicle to travel to see homes and gardens' brilliant display of lights
*selecting (unpacking) a Christmas tree and adorning it's limbs with ornaments 
*family gathering/meal on Christmas Eve or Day
etc.

 Giving/Service
*offering a neighbor, service man/woman, retirement home resident etc a visit and homemade treat
*purchasing food for donation at the grocery
*purchasing clothing or toys for children
*donating to a charity/mission/organization
*serving a meal at the local shelter
*giving time to provide company to someone who may be lonely
etc.

Cheer/Joy
*greeting and smiling at passersby
*encouraging, cheerful, positive media
*gift giving based on delight of pleasing another
etc.

 Warmth and Welcome 
*decorating the home
*hosting or visiting with friends/family
 etc.

Faith
*reading the Bible together
*Advent countdown activities
*church attendance
etc.

      Not one of the activities listed above is limited to the holiday season and yet so often is the case. This Christmas I pondered upon the meaning and value of these activities and recognizing that they are good things wondered further why they are so challenging, stressful and exhausting to partake in each Christmas. My inquiry concluded at the discovery of these entities are ones that can (and ought to) be practiced throughout the year and at Christmas time they simply take a different form. Of course I'm overwhelmed with so many additions in the short time of one month when it isn't something I've developed a heart for and practice of during the last eleven months of the year. 

     As I look back upon this year, feeling once again that something was lacking in the celebration of the season, I am encouraged in coming to a greater understanding of the heart of the matter and how that translates into Christmas in our home and family. Perhaps Christmas is never lacking when it involves things we've had all along. Christmas is a special time, but it isn't the only time. 

     And so, as we now approach the coming of the new year I wish to encourage you to also carry some of those admirable and good qualities of Christmas with you. 

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