You know, the thing about opinions is that everyone is entitled to their own. And the thing about perspective is that it can shift in the fragment of a moment. I have both an opinion and a perspective and they have colored my Christmas experience in various hues throughout the years.
Growing up, money was a precious commodity that didn’t come easily. We had enough, but sometimes just barely. We lived through winters with little heat in our home. Sometimes there was none at all. We survived. And every year when Christmas rolled around, somehow gifts managed to be arranged under a tree for us. The season wasn’t about Jesus back then. Not for us, anyway. But it was about love.
When I married and had children of my own, Christmas evolved for me. My perspective shifted a bit. It was no longer about getting gifts, but giving them. Living on a modest income with little leftover, random gifts just didn’t happen. And because my childhood was filled with memories of being “loved on” each Christmas, no matter how hard the times, I wanted to share one day out of the year with my kids where they felt a little pampered. Spoiled even. Still, Christmas wasn’t really about Jesus. Not for us. We sang the songs and read the stories, but all that was just to add to the experience. This life is a journey, right? Well, my journey has been a slow one.
I’m not sure when it happened or why. But very gradually the God I was getting to know began to seem real. And that manger scene…it became something more than a sweet story. The “Christmas Story” was no longer about an untouchable girl named Mary traveling with her betrothed to a far off city where she gave birth to the Christ child in the crudest of places.
It became about the very One who spoke me into existence, coming here to save me. Me. ME. The same girl who never really needed Him. The girl who was too tired or busy or grumpy to take time to go out to meet Him. The girl who’d been carried through every rough patch in life and then secretly gave herself credit for being strong, brave and true. I was none of things and He knew it. Yet He came for me anyway.
Christmas had been re-birthed in the heart of a very grateful young mother. One who’d caught a glimpse of her nothingness.
I still give gifts at Christmas. I still have a tree and lights and cookies. And I know the date on which we celebrate isn’t His actual birthday and that we were never told to commemorate the occasion. I know there’s a less-than-lovely history associated with December 25 but I also know He knows that isn’t what I’m celebrating at all.
I’m embracing a season where the world is a little softer. I smile when I see cars lined up to travel slowly through a humble, little park to see lights that have been arranged by careful hands. I listen to my own kids squeal as those lights twinkle. I revel in the wonder of strangers being kind without provocation. There’s just something in the air and they feel it and it changes them. I delight to hear a small group of men on the back of a float singing praise to the King during the town parade…and I’m warmed as I hear the onlookers shout their approval! That just doesn’t happen everyday. Especially not in a nation who fancies itself offended at the mention of His name.
So you see, I still have an opinion about Christmas though my perspective has changed. Some might say I’m letting the world seep into my view. And I have absolute respect for those who feel led by a different perspective. I simply say that if we each allow ourselves to be led by that Star, our paths may look different but we’ll end up in the right place. And that, after all, is what matters!
Do you celebrate Christmas? Why or why not?