Early this morning I was sitting in my darkened living room with only the tree lights glowing bemoaning the fact that Christmas has no magic for me this year. Why? The suffering of my friends weighs heavily and Fred is working all the time and comes home exhausted, just to eat and go to bed. We are too busy, too much to do in too little time. Everyone is on edge.
So if I focus on the true meaning of Christmas--Immanuel, God with us--I see Jesus as our only hope in a world of pain and hard work. The joy he brings is the only kind of lasting joy. I know this, but I'm having a difficult time getting perspective this year. This morning I am not feeling very spiritual.
I look at the tree and remember Christmases past. The carols and the lights surrounding the holiday allow children to indulge in the world of their imaginations, where children long to dwell. But we parents make them concentrate on the real world of school work and chores and responsibility. Usually at Christmas we briefly join them in their fantasy world where Santa and reindeer live at the North Pole and an adopted elf searches for his roots and a couple tries to escape Christmas only to find true meaning by sacrificing their needs for others. (These all come from movies we've watched recently.) Fred sets up his trains and he and the girls lie on the floor and watch them go around the tree and imagine living in that tiny village.
The girls and I were shopping for toys for the little ones in our family. After we chose our gifts I asked Arielle and Liana if they wanted to walk through the doll section of this big store. No, they said. Didn't they want to just look at the dolls? No. It's so very sad. Arielle wants no toy for Christmas. She hasn't for awhile. And this will probably be Liana's last year for Christmas toys. They are both growing up.
I remember my middle-school years when there was no more jumping out of bed early in the morning to see what Santa had left for me. In 7th grade I got white go-go boots (that I very much desired) and a warm sweater. Great gifts, but not thrilling. It was hard to face reality for a child who often lived in an imaginary world.
Late at night on Christmas Eve this year Fred and I will not be arranging toys on the sofa to be discovered at dawn by excited little girls in their pjs. Gifts now are more practical and sophisticated. As I sadly contemplate this, I think of what my wise daughter Arielle said a few weeks ago. She told me the best part of Christmas for her is not the gifts but the family gathering all together. She loves the crazy antics of her brothers and playing with the youngest ones and the laughter and loud voices and the special food and sitting in a circle watching each other open gifts one by one. The girls have both enjoyed making special gifts for their siblings and nieces and nephews and are eagerly anticipating giving these gifts. I need to learn from my daughters.