Some of the firsts bring a sense of sadness: the first Christmas without a loved one through death or estrangement, the first Christmas without a job. Again, the list is universal and personal.
Maybe this Christmas just feels like another in a long line of next Christmases. The joy of the season is lost in the myriad of other stuff that fills the calendar; the next social gathering or the next year of family gatherings with “that” relative. Perhaps December 25 is just another day in a year of 365 next days as it is another in one of the next Christmas holidays.
As I look around me and within me, I confess to seeing many who seem to have locked into being overly focused on these two dimensions of the holiday season, the first and the next.
Please don’t let this convince you that I believe they are not important. They are but only in the context of the whole. The kind of hope found in the first and the distance in the next are held together with the possibility of the last.
Allow me to interject one more dimension into our discussion. The increasing emphasis on buying and selling is troubling to me. In my lifetime I have seen the day after Thanksgiving shopping to be the day of Thanksgiving shopping. Christmas creep seems to be right after Labor Day.
A luxury automobile company touts their product to provide a “Christmas to remember.” I doubt none in the good ol’ USA would argue that the emphasis is on giving at this time of year. Bigger is better, more is the mandate, bling is best, expensive is expected. Economists tell us our economy may hinge on Christmas sales. So, we better go buy something for the good of our nation. Didn’t this cause the problem?
As a matter of fact, I would suggest that giving is at the heart of this season. But not as you might expect which brings us back to our thoughts on first, next, last, especially last.
If you are numbered as one of those who find how our culture has stolen a season of God giving to us love in the person of Jesus and turned it into a self-indulgent mockery then maybe we might begin our own simple revolution or join the one he started.
If this was the last Christmas we might spend on earth or spend with someone, how would be spend it? If this is the first Christmas in the beginning of a new chapter in life, how might we choose to write that new version? How will the next December 25 be different than the last?
When it is all said and done, that is a decision we each and all will make for ourselves. It is a choice. While we must make it within the context of our own lives, it is a personal one. Maybe it is not possible to change everything, add or subtract from traditions this is the next opportunity to live into the meaning of the season.
So, what if each of us decides right here and right now to embrace the essence of the first Christmas, one person being present with another not out of duty or tradition but out of love. What if this next Christmas we treat it as both the first and the last?
As Christina Rossetti wrote, “Love came down at Christmas… Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine…. Love for plea, for gift, for sign.”
— Wishing you a Christmas to remember.