What Christmas Is All About

img_2746What is Christmas?
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…
You better watch out, you better not cry…
Jingle bells…
The Annual Family Christmas Tree Outing…
Silent night, holy night…
Santa Claus…
Rudolph and his clan…
Caroling…
The Christmas story told in various and assorted versions…
Watching “A Christmas Story” about Ralphie and his Red Rider BB Gun…
Giving, receiving, and opening gifts…

In high school I memorized Clement C. Moore’s “Twas the Night before Christmas” for part of a speech and debate class, which crazily enough took me to a Speech and Debate Meet where I won something for some category. Funny thing is, I didn’t even believe in Santa Claus. I did as a child and he came personally each year, making a surprise visit in a red velvet suit, trimmed with white ‘fur’ and topped with a matching hat, a pair of black boots and a wide, black belt. He was the real deal. Or so I thought. The year I was six, cousin Dave whispered otherwise.

As Santa rounded the hall corner, cousin Dave, who had also anxiously been awaiting Santa’s grand entrance said, with great disappointment , “That’s not Santa. That’s grandpa.” How he could see past the curly white beard is beyond me, but he was right. I’m not sure if anyone else stopped believing that year or not because I’m not sure if anyone else heard him, but I sure did.

Yes, that was the moment I quit believing in Santa. It had been a deception that I didn’t want to accept: Santa wasn’t real. Santa was my grandpa. Santa was still the man in red, but he didn’t live up at the North Pole. He didn’t have elves such as I had believed. His elves had the same names as my mom and dad and aunts and uncles. He didn’t have a sleigh but instead drove a Buick and he didn’t have a reindeer, but a toy poodle named Prince. I was devastated.

That year Christmas meant that not all people tell the truth.

A few years later, my mom bought the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. The first time I saw it, it was sitting on the top shelf in her closet. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to see it. I had been sitting on her bed, waiting for her to finish her shower and the closet door happened to be open and there it sat, sitting up there in its unopened box, all by itself, staring at me. I wasn’t snooping. It was just there – beckoning to come down and play. When my mom came out, I asked her why it was there and she said it was for my cousin—for Christmas. I didn’t understand that. I had never had a beautiful doll like that one. Well, okay I had beautiful dolls. Just not that one. And so I begged my mother for it and finally, after my persistence and annoying whining and pleas coated with how I didn’t have a doll like that, she gave it to me. Every time I held that doll, I felt selfishly guilty. I don’t think my mother realized that she gave me the gift of learning to be unselfish that year, because that year I learned it’s much better to give than to receive.

A few years later, I learned more about what Christmas meant. I learned what the meaning of Christmas was really all about.
Since the beginning of time, most of us have heard that ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.’ In other words, God loved us so much, that He had to do something to give us hope in this crazy place and save us from ourselves. Hope for situations in which we had been deceived and forgiveness for our own selfish ways. And so, he gave us His son.

He put him on this earth as a little baby who grew up, much the same as you and I. However, the difference between us and Him? He didn’t deceive others. He always told the truth. He taught that the Truth would set us free. He didn’t try to manipulate people into giving him what he wanted but came to give what they needed.

He never pushed to get his way. He showed the world that it was better to give than to receive. He didn’t stand in crazy lines that wrapped around store aisles but stood on the stones of a temple courtyard where He was sentenced to die a sinner’s death.

The day had come for Him to go. If he stayed, hope would become a word without meaning. He showed the world once—and for all—the value of a gift when He held out his arms on the cross, similarly as his mother did some years earlier. She held out her arms to embrace the Son of God on that first Christmas night, only to watch Him embrace the world as He held open His arms on the cross.

That is what Christmas means to me – to open my arms to the world. To offer all that I have to those who have nothing – physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually. To embrace those who are alone and need someone to comfort them, listen to them, be a friend. To forsake what I think I need and give to another, learning that I have all I need.

The holidays can be so crazy—focusing on wants and desires. The desire for this or that. The desire to give the best gift. The desire for the best deals.

My desire is to focus on that little boy. To please him in my offering of gifts that I bring. And I want to bring to him everything. I no longer want to be the little girl, vying for a plastic doll or to tell Santa my secrets, but I want to scan the faces of humanity and see who needs a gift more than I do.

What is Christmas? Christmas isn’t about me. It’s all about Him.

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