Putting The Joy Back Into Christmas(I originally wrote this last Christmas but I think it is an appropriate time to share again)
Several years ago as I was doing some last minute shopping at our local mall I had what I call my "epiphany." As I was looking around the crowded mall I decided I wanted to rest a bit. While sitting on a bench I took in the sight not only with my eyes but also with my heart. What I was looking at was sad, indeed. People were racing about with hurried step and glazed over eyes. Their pace was so fast it almost made me dizzy. There were no smiles, no pleasantries, no "Merry Christmas" to you (don't get me started on that one!) there was absolutely NOTHING. What I DID see was a lot of stressed out, burned out, and worn out people. Each one was on a "mission" to find that perfect gift and in the process spend a lot of money they didn't have. No wonder the credit card companies love us at Christmas time.
As I continued sitting there on that little bench that is when the "epiphany" came to me. Not only was I looking at these stressed out, burned out, worn people . . . . . . . I had indeed, in fact, become one of them. As I was watching their unhappy faces I realized that the people would see that same unhappy face on me. OUCH! I cringed at the very thought. I had fallen into the "trap." The Christmas "trap" that I promised myself I would never do.
Although I certainly KNEW the true meaning of Christmas I had allowed myself to get mixed up in the Christmas "craziness." I had somehow forgotten that it isn't about who buys the most expensive, impressive present. It isn't about who volunteers for every church Christmas activity there ever was. It isn't about who has the most Christmas parties, sends out the most Christmas cards, has the most lights on their house, or even who bakes the most fruitcakes. What it IS about is that baby that was born in the manger. God's gift to us, to all mankind.
As I picked myself up off that bench I was a different person. I left that mall without hurried step and glazed eyes, but with a smile on my face and even a "Merry Christmas" to others. As a result, the gift giving in our house has dwindled down considerably. It's not the amount or the cost, it's the thought and love that went into it.
Another result is that as a family we are spending more time in our home during the holidays. Outside obligations are very limited and the ones that we do have are very well chosen. As I go about my chores during the day I am again humming along to beloved Christmas carols. As I walk from room to room I give an admiring glance of appreciation at our Christmas tree. At the dinner table we have candles lit and in the evening we have a special bible reading around the Advent wreath. We are "taking the time" to "make the time" to ENJOY Christmas and it's true meaning.
I'm sure if I asked my children what there favorite toy for Christmas was when they were little they would be hard pressed to remember. I am also sure that they could tell you every detail of our family Christmas Eve celebration. The reading of the Christmas story, the singing of songs, the food, the laughter, and the love.
The next time you are out I challenge you to look around. Do you see what I saw? Do you feel what I felt? If so, stop a minute. Not only physically stop, but take a "mental" stop. Ask yourself, "are they seeing in you what you see in them?" If so, maybe it's time for an "epiphany" of your own. We can get out of the "trap" and into the glorious and wondrous part of the Christmas season. After all, we've already been given the greatest gift!