Here we are at another Christmas. A recent social media posting of one family’s 300 presents got many people commenting on the true meaning of Christmas.
For the non-Christian, Christmas may be an opportunity for a party. For those who believe, the piles of gifts wrapped in colorful paper and ribbons, lights on houses and trees, and the parade of parties can be enjoyable, but are not the main event. The main event is the quiet celebration of simple thankfulness, and acts of generosity to help make another’s life better, as we believe Jesus would do.
These acts of generosity extend beyond the red bucket outside of every store with a bell ringer to attract attention. Our gifts to family and friends not only bring them momentary joy, but the real gift is taking the time from our busy lives and giving them the gift of our time and attention.
Christmas is often full of as much sadness as happiness. We remember Christmas past with those we love who have died. In the picture is my sister and parents, everyone is having a good time, making our celebration as happy as possible, even though we already had a terminal diagnosis on our parents health. Now on this second Christmas since my parents passing, we still feel that empty place. The circle of life keeps going. Our family, like other families experiencing loss, have also experienced the joy of new additions to the family. Births and marriages expand the family, bringing new joy.
All around us are people who need a kind word, a moment of time and good will. In addition to those who are grieving death there are those separated by distance, pride, or estrangement.
When so many families tolerate their kleptomaniac relatives, suffer their alcoholic relatives, argue with their opinionated relatives, and pray for compassion and wisdom, it is difficult to understand what could cause the estrangement between mother and child of a woman I know. Mother and child have not spoken to each other in years. The mother has never met her grandchildren, and cards and gifts have been returned. I can’t imagine what could have caused this estrangement, but I know her Christmas is full of regret.
I know a person so set on being in the right, that the idea of claiming some responsibility for a rift and meeting a loved ones half way is unthinkable. I know families that have struggled with a relative that can’t find their way out of addiction, or mental illness, or just a series of bad decisions and reject well meaning attempts to help.
Families can be divided by large things or small. Past failings become future grudges. Smiles and lights can hide a multitude of problems.
Take the time to have a kind word of greeting for those around you. This Christmas, may all your words be loving, because once they leave your lips, you can’t take them back. Right or wrong.