During the last few weeks I’ve noticed an increased tendency to reflect upon past Christmas celebrations in my life. There may be a deeper meaning to these reflections, although I suspect it has more to do with this being my last Christmas before turning 50, and all of the nostalgia this transition is prompting within me.
I’ve thought about favorite moments, special gifts, family and friends, and those rare Christmas Eves when fresh snowflakes silently blanket country fields and all of creation seems to pause for just one evening, one holy night.
But most of all, I’ve thought about what I’ve learned about Christmas over the years.
Some of these musings are admittedly on the lighter side. For example, I’ve learned if you forget to buy the ham before Christmas Day, the canned product called “Danish” ham sold at CVS is not an acceptable substitute. I’m really not even sure it is ham. Unfortunately, a true story.
I’ve learned our family’s tradition of not placing baby Jesus in the natitvity scene’s manger until Christmas Eve gets tougher to execute each year when it’s up to me to remember where the baby Jesus figurine is hiding as we all await the big day. I’ll chalk that one up to the whole “getting older” thing.
I’ve learned leaving icicle lights up on the house until spring thaw is not the best way to curry favor with your kids. Or your neighbors. Or just about anyone.
But on a serious note, I’ve learned more about life – through Christmas – than I ever realized before this year.
I’ve learned the gifts I remember the most through the years are not the ones that cost the most, but the gifts that came in lean times and through much sacrifice. To this day I remember the Christmas Eve when an anonymous knock on our farmhouse door revealed a box of gifts in a year when we were strapped with medical bills and had but the slightest of packages beneath our tree. We never learned who left those gifts, but two decades later, they are not forgotten.
I’ve learned I would give just about anything to have one more Christmas with loved ones who have long since passed away. Now there are only two generations left from my wife’s prized five-generation Christmas photo, and the old 8mm films of crowded family dinners at my grandparents’ home serve as bittersweet memories of wonderful times long since past.
I’ve learned if I could do it all again, I’d spend less time in small talk and more time embracing relationships we sometimes take for granted.
I’ve learned there is nothing as beautiful as the face of a child who falls asleep in her mother’s arms at a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, and I’ve learned just a small portion of how it must break the heart of God when anyone harms little ones such as these.
I’ve learned the more we chase after the stuff the world tells us we need, the more we forget that the gifts of life, love, and family mean more than anything else in the world.
And in a year in which I am tempted to be discouraged at the horizontal view of politics, power and pride we see eminating from many of our nation’s leaders, I’ve learned that there is no power on earth that can stop the echoes of the angelic host celebrating that miraculous night when the King of Kings came into our broken world as a great light shining in blinding darkness.
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There He lay, in His mother’s arms, as His earthly journey to the cross began.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
This, I have learned, is what Christmas is all about.
May you and your family enjoy a blessed Christmas.
LifeNews Note: Mike Fichter is the president of Indiana Right to Life.