The joyful spirit of Christmas is over today. I can get back to my normal, petulant, shallow self. Maybe not. I hope not. I best not.
Everything we write can’t be profound. Everything can’t be thrilling. Everything can’t be brimming with inspiration. That’s too bad. It would be much easier if it were, much easier if we set down to the keyboard and just had thoughts fly that inspired fingers to move rapidly on keyboards, filling the page with words that inspired you, touched you, moved you. I have been thankful for the times in the past I‘ve been able to do that. Today is not likely to be one of those days.
Yesterday’s Christmas, though, furnished me with a great opportunity to see that Christmas is not about me, though the me involved in the Christmas was personally inspired by that revelation. Christmas Eve had the family all together, my mother, my step-father, my step-brother, my cousin and his wife, my brother and sister-in-law, Debbie, Canaan, and Piper and the girls. The bounty of the table that was spread before us left no belly wanting: baked ham, roast turkey, roast chicken a whole roasted rib rack, deviled eggs, Waldorf Salad, Watergate Salad, ambrosia, dressing and gravy, fresh cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, asparagus casserole, sweet potato casserole, you know, the kind with the roast pecan/brown sugar crust on top which has no peer, and broccoli casserole. Follow this up with pecan pie or a sumptuous chocolate pie, either one, or both, if you prefer, which I did. It may make you think Christmas was about gluttony, but it’s not; everyone brought from the bounty of their larder and shared what they with each other. It was plenty, and we thanked the Lord for the plenty and sat down to share in it together. We enjoyed it all again yesterday, last night, and likely again, today.
It was cold here in Mississippi. It is winter, after all, but it was a far cry from the many Christmases I spent in short pants and tee-shirt. Insulated long-johns seemed to be called for, as well as the three-foot long logs in the huge fireplace in the main lodge, where we enjoyed our Christmas dinner. The fire was just right: not to big, not too small, just giving us the ambience of a fireside meal near the hearth, and the warmth from it, without the fire being so large that it pulled in more cold air than it radiated heat, which is what can happen with a fireplace…just ask someone who relies on one for heat. All that hot air racing up a hot chimney pulls in at least the same volume of air as it exhausts, and when one opens a door, it’s easy to observe that there’s negative pressure in the house, since the air races in through the open door…the fire getting hotter, but the room getting colder. It is the nature of fireplaces. It is the nature of thermal energy. It is part of the nature of the observation that everything touches every other thing in some way. There is no vacuum. There is no isolation.
There are the childhood memories of the endless dinner where adults ate too much, talked too much, and dawdled far too long when there were presents under the tree with our name on it that needed opening, their mystery and promise too much for us to wait for any longer, having already waited an eternity, or so it had seemed to us at the time. Prompting our memories of this were the family’s own children, still waiting that eternity as we adults sipped our coffee and ate the last of our pie. We sadistically tortured the children by making them wait another eternity in the meantime as we let the food settle.
The gifts we exchanged were not ostentations, but simple, thoughtful gifts, each one bearing the thoughtfulness of the giver towards the receiver, each one something that the one thought the other might particularly want, or could make use of, since no one here really needed anything. The thankfulness for not needing anything was present. We were thankful then; we are thankful now. We had everything we really needed, which was each other. We had everything we really wanted, which was each other. We were mindful that recently others had lost those important to them and that their Christmas was likely different. Being mindful of that always make you thankful for the Christmas you have when everyone was there. But, we weren‘t all there, since there is no household that has everyone there. There are always people missed. For them, we are thankful for the memories of Christmases past, when they were among us, full of mirth and turkey, dressing and laughter. The twinkles in our own eyes were not dimmed by this, however, since we are here and must make the best of it. Those not here were fondly and wistfully recalled. We toasted their memories so that in a sense, they were still with us. Go back just a few generations though and there were those whose former very real lives no longer had a place in our memory, or in our heart. We are thankful for them, too, and I am remembering them now, or at least as many as I am able to bring to mind for some of them have escaped this earth entirely, even in memory. So too, will we escape this earth one day.
Now, though, we are fat with our own importance to each other, an touched by those whose memories are still important. The rest were important to others, now also long gone, yet their genes still live in us, there features prominent in our faces and perhaps in our thoughts, or modes of thinking. They have not escaped us completely for something in us still yearns for whatever it was that made them them and make us us.
We all knew of people whose Christmas was not like ours, people in the midst of sickness and pain. We thought of the Christians in other parts of the world who are facing persecution at the hands of oppressors, and others around the world whose tables were not as full as ours. We wish we could share what we had with them, and we would, but how do we get to them? How do we get them here? Our prayers will have to suffice. We hope their tables were full and that the Lord magnified whatever it was that their table held. He can. He does. He will do so, still.
Our own day is coming when the table will not be so full, nor will so many seats be filled beside us. We all face the same thing. Right now, my cup overflows with the bounty of this life. Later, when the cup seems less than full, I will remember this time. I am thankful for it today and I will be thankful for the memory of it tomorrow.
I made some phone calls yesterday morning to people I have not spoken to in a while…just brief Merry Christmases and greetings, which allowed an acknowledgement that they were being thought of, which everyone likes. We all like to be remembered. We all like to think of our own importance to others. We regret that we didn’t call everyone, though we managed to get in a few surprises along the way, though circumstances and uncooperative time zones managed to thwart us from completing our list of calls to important people. Well, that option is still open, because our calls don’t have to be on Christmas day. They can come at any time, the important thing being to actually dial the number when thoe loved ones come to mind. Any time will do as long as it’s not too early or too late, and the only time it’s actually too late is when our calls are to the number that used to reach them, the number that is not needed any longer that went to a phone now disconnected. We will regret those calls not made. Now is the time for the call. Now is the time for touching someone who through the passage of time, or the distance of geography has decided that they are no longer so important to us.
I watched my grandchildren in their joy of Christmas morning. I watched them later play together and share with each other the gifts that they had been given. I was touched by how those two sisters love each other. There were moments when things were a bit petulant and terse but they were only moments and we all have our moments. We loved as a family, we laughed as a family, we rejoiced in the joy and peace of Christmas as a family. Thank God for our families. We did not choose each other, but if given the choice, I would choose the one I have, eccentricities and faults included. I would hope that they would choose me, but I’m glad they’re stuck with me and don’t have to choose. Were we able to choose, we’d likely make some really bad choices. The remarkable thing about families is that, even though there is sometimes strife and dissension, they are still families, and blood is thicker than water. I daresay, l not getting to choose our families, we would certainly choose to have done some things differently along the way.
Knowing that, let us choose the right thing, knowing also that the right thing is not always about us. Sometimes, no frequently, we find the fulfillment of ourselves in the choices we make for others by helping the get what they want and need. If we just focus on ourselves, there is no peace, no joy, and a dearth of contentment in our own life.
Now, being content today and having written nothing about something worthwhile, I feel far better than having written something urgent that is not worthy of my time to write or your time to read. Having not done so, I can get on with returning to my shallow self-serving self, which is a whole lot easier but a whole lot less worthwhile.
I thought about you yesterday…I’m just sorry I didn’t call. Maybe today I’ll get the chance. In the meantime, know that you were thought of and missed, and are still missed, even though Christmas is over.
Tonight I drink the lovely banana-flavored barium smoothie, then again in the morning for a full body CT scan so they can have a look at these lymph nodes of mine. Here’s to hoping that the radiologist’s reports contains only the words, “unremarkable.” That would be remarkable, though it will be what it will be and I will be found right in the midst of whatever it is.
“Here I stand and I will not be moved,” said Martin Luther from between a rock and a hard place.
Would that we were all so inspired. I am thankful for his example. There are so many examples to be thankful for. May we always be thankful for the examples and wary of the words, for examples speak in much more salient terms since they never deceive; we are able to see them for what they are, not for what the shower would have us see. A good example is the least like advertising while being the best advertisement.
I am thankful for good examples. I am hopeful to be a good example. I don’t want to just be one during Christmas. I want to be one now that Christmas is over.
That is easy to say and much harder to do. A lot of us could benefit from less saying and more doing, and some of us could benefit from less saying and less doing, particularly if the doing is just done to reinforce the saying for the benefit of the camera. it’s what we say in our hearts and what we do when no one is watching that counts.
Maybe, if we get down to it, the spirit that moves us at Christmas can hang around until the next Christmas. No need to devote ourselves a goodness and mercy that lasts just a few weeks, and certainly not one that manifests itself on a Black-Friday shopping spree.
Now the new year is coming up: Lori, Bill, Margaret, Lynn, Gene, Rick, Jack, Sheila, Casey, Johnny, Charles, Donnie, Tom, Phil, and everyone else fighting the battle with cancer or having fought the battle have seen a respite, may Christmas abide in your hearts all year long and the new year itself furnish you with hope, remission, and healing. We are all just glad to be here and have seen another Christmas. Like you, I will look forward to the next one and cling to the hope and promise of every new day and my place in it.
Christmas is not over. It just started. A year is only an eternity to a child…to the rest of us, it flies by in just a few weeks. Grab it while you can and wrestle it down until it cries, “Uncle!”
Here’s the spirit of Christmas in THE CHRISTMAS SEASON. May it be yours all year ’round.