Monthly Archives: December 2013

I Used To Hate Christmas

I used to hate Christmas.  Well, not Christmas really.  Just what it seemed it had all come to mean, especially after the kids were grown, and there was no more special magic building up to Christmas morning.  What seemed left was a non-negotiable requirement to shop, spend, wrap, mail and oh, by the way, do it all with a spirit of joy, peace and love.  Sure I would think trying hard to hold off the low simmer of resentment brewing just under the surface. Whose idea was this anyway? I would silently complain feeling quite certain someone must be responsible for my checkbook going red, pants bulging from overeating and stress stealing me away into that just get it done zone.  Certainly there were moments that seemed to make it all worthwhile.  But, still, I would silently celebrate when it had all passed, even as I would try to ignore that ever so subtle sense of sadness.  This is not what Christmas should be about!  Something’s off.

It was.  And, it was me.

So, in recent years, my husband and I have made a concerted effort to make Christmas our own again and, with enthusiastic intention, have encouraged our family to join in our revolution to reclaim the mystery or, at least, our sanity.  Along the way, we’ve tried different things.  One year we asked that everyone bring a contribution to our Christmas dinner as an expression of our gift to one another. Worked fine until we discovered that enchiladas did not go so well with pumpkin soup.  Another year we suggested we all give only handmade presents until we remembered that we were the only ones with flexible time, or perhaps even the inclination, to enthusiastically create such gifts complete with all the joyful trimmings.

Then, this Christmas, something happened and I found myself totally caught up in that something.  Maybe it was decorating the tiny jewelry box I was drawn to give my beautiful granddaughter miles away with her favorite Bible saying.  Quite grandma-looking but what fun I had!  Or going on a mission to find that most-special calendar, the one I give my oldest daughter every year.  Yes!  Found it!  Or having to get just the right frames for those special pictures of my younger daughter and son-in-law with my beloved granddaughter.  Mission accomplished!  And, hearing a passing comment by my son-in-law just a week before Christmas.  Could I possibly find it and could it possibly get here on time?  Yes!  Amazing!  How in the world could this get any more fun??

And, oh my, watching my beautiful grandson, on Christmas Day, wanting to listen to the book I’d recorded for him, over and over, while his other high tech toys lay waiting.  Yes, this was when I absolutely knew I was in heaven – no question – sweetly confirmed a little later by a heart-stopping request from my younger daughter as she cut tomatoes for the Cesar salad.

But, still there was more.  This year I could not pass a Salvation Army jingle without giving, a little surprised by that lump in my throat.  A not serious, yet unavoidable, trip to the doctor let me know that the visit was only for me in a minor way.  I had really been sent on a secret Santa mission.  Oh, thank you Beloved.  I accept!  And, then being told to give something I’ve long had on my altar to an extended relative.  This one gave me pause.  Really?  Are you sure?  And then I could only smile.  Of course, You are sure!  I’m the only one questioning here!  Ok.  Done!

But, perhaps, the most special of all was finding that last minute stocking stuffer for my husband.  Oh, I knew he’d love it.  What I didn’t know was that it would instantly bring him back to a sweet memory from his childhood remembering his mom having the exact same item.  Only two days earlier we had talked of his mom, long passed, over our morning coffee.

Oh no!  Christmas can’t be over!  No!  There must be a way to make this feeling last all year long…

Oh…yes…that is the point isn’t it…

Now, my only last concern.  How will I deck my hammock out with all those boughs of holly?  But wait…I’m remembering…

All things are possible to him who believes.  Amen.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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A Nickel for Your Pocket

…and greater works than these shall ye do. John 14:12 

Once there was a little girl who went grocery shopping with her mother.  At the checkout, she impulsively thought she might help bag up some of the groceries.  Seeing her enthusiastic efforts, an older gentleman working there as a bagger smiled at her and handed her a nickel telling her she had done a good job.  Thirty plus years later, the grown woman would say that she had kept the coin in her small jewelry box until well after she had graduated from college.  It was a reminder to her of how the smallest things make the greatest impact.  That it really wasn’t about receiving the money.  It was about having been recognized, seen, and acknowledged.

Now, I can imagine that the incident was quickly forgotten by the grocery store bagger.  But to the little girl it was a gift for a lifetime.  Oh my.  So often when we think of helping or serving others, we may wonder what we have to offer.  We may feel we have little in the way of abilities, time, money, resources.  Yet, what if none of these things really mattered?  In fact, what if our well-conceived concerns were actually getting in the way of our experiencing the Grace of true giving?  Did the bagger in the grocery store need some special talent or extended amount of time?  And, I do believe that all he needed in the way of money was a nickel.  Can we imagine that all we may need is something as un-noteworthy as a nickel to impact another for a life time?  We can when we remember, as the little girl would reflect years later, that the gift was really not about the nickel at all.

What if when Jesus said in John 14:12, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall ye do, he was actually pointing us away from the standard notions of what we may imagine a great deed or miracle to look like and toward the realization that the true miracle may sometimes be just a small coin, given in gratitude and recognition, to a small pair of hands?

And, what if, all that was required of us to see the light of day in God’s holy night, to become such humble instruments of Grace, was to stand empty, silent and still, knowing that at any moment God beyond our understanding might breathe through us some unassuming deed for some unsuspecting heart…perhaps never for us to know the silent miracle left behind?

Do you have a nickel?  In our Temple, there is a small prayer bowl filled with nickels.  Take one or bring one from home and put it in your pocket.  Pray it becomes a small reminder of your covenant with the Beloved, to stand ready to serve in ways you know not.    

For, Graciously, then, without your even knowing, greater works shall ye do. 

Blessings this holiday season and always.


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