Images appear intermittently in my mind. A confluence of past years merge within me to form this feeling I call Christmas. I confess the emotions are mixed but flavored mostly with warmth. The good feelings are ignited by my own sensory memory of Christmas Eve anticipation, smelling yeast bread and pound cake baking and waiting for the first bite, hanging tinsel on the tree we cut from Uncle Allen’s farm, listening to Nat King Cole sing “The Christmas Song” on FM radio while attempting to croon along, and the good years watching my children’s faces on Christmas morning. ‘Tis the season and all I need are my memories and a turn of the calendar to remind me Christmas is coming.
Beyond the good reminder and warm feelings, for a good part of my life there was an emptiness, a depression and darkness associated with Christmas. Absent any serious thought, it was a sense something was amiss. Because not knowing is conditional to darkness, unknown to me this sense was light attempting to seep in, to urge me on while the emptiness manifested in ways prolonging my depressed mood during Christmas. Everyone kept telling me it was the season of giving, but the giving seemed shallow and rote. I give to you. You give to me. Exchanges driven by indebtedness. Each one a habit of social expectation and obligation. It all seemed too human and lacking. I felt relieved when the calendar turned to January.
I’ve been in other dark places, too, and I always looked for the light. Though not always immediate and apparent, I looked. And one day it occurred to me. Christmas is not the season of giving. It is the season of the gift, the Christ child, a light so much brighter than my darkness. What I had sensed, I now knew. I was relieved all over again. The meaning imparted was not sudden. The light grew in me. Christ came, His life a gift, and I knew I could not give to him anything of equal value. All I could give—and I am but a poor giver—is my devotion, faith and obedience. His gift meant I was free not to give at all, but this meant choosing darkness, something I could not do now that I understood.
With the gift in the giving, I give to you this prayer.
Beyond our divining, to us all, that is, to all who believe, to those who come, assurance is given. For unto us a Child is born, a Son given. His name is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of His increase, we shall know no end, from this time forward, even forever. Above our highest joy and in our most pained isolation, He came and became. And in so becoming one of us, by His name and through His birth, did God so promise us salvation and say in His manger, Amen.
May the peace, blessing, and assurance of Christ’s birth be with you this Christmas and forevermore.