Archive for December 13th, 2007

My Christmas Progress

One of the disadvantages of living in the country and working in the city is a 45-minute commute twice a day.

One of the advantages of living in the country and working in the city is a 45-minute commute twice a day. 

For me, this time is a time of reflection for me, one of the few quiet moments in the day that is not measurable by it’s production value, the expertise in getting the right technology/pedagogy mix, the ability to juggle multiple, competing tasks while still being supportive of my students and responsive to the faculty.  For 90 minutes each day, I can follow a familiar earthly road and let my mind traverse through a diverse landscape of thoughts.

As we draw ever closer to Christmas (and yet, mysteriously, not any closer to being finished with my knitting projects….) I find that, naturally, many of my thoughts turn to the holiday and what it means for me. 

As I draw ever closer to the age of 40 (and yet, mysteriously, not any closer to figuring out what the answers to life are…) I find that my views on many subjects, Christmas included, have become more panoramic.  I can see how my observation of this holiday has changed over the years, through my life experiences, and through my relationships.

So, driving along the road this morning, sipping on my coffee, I replayed some of my past Christmases and my progress through the years.  

Of course, when I was a child, Christmas was all about gifts, but specifically, gifts to me.  A good Christmas was measured by the quantity, and quality, of the gifts I received, and believe me, my mom and dad made sure that all my Christmases were good.

When I met Tony, that changed.  I wish I could say it changed before I married Tony, but even up to the age of 21, Christmas was still about the gifts to me.  When I found myself head over heels in love with the man who was to become my husband, Christmas for me became all about gifts to him.  I lavished gifts both large and small on him, showing him my love in the best way I had been taught by my parents:  more gifts equals more love.  [That’s unfair to my parents.  They tried to teach me better ways, but that’s the one I latched onto.]  I spent a lot of energy and a lot of money in my efforts to show him that he was everything to my young life.  During those first years together, our love was enough for me, and I celebrated our love, and our December 15th anniversary, through gifting.

Then we started to plan a family, and suddenly other visions of Christmas started to creep into my imagination.  Views of children, and Santa Claus, and, well…..you know the rest….the children never joined our Christmas celebrations.  Within a couple of Christmases, everything about my view of Christmas changed.  Tony’s love wasn’t enough, and giving him gifts didn’t bring me the same joy.  It wasn’t him I only wanted to give gifts to, anymore, and while I still gave gifts, they couldn’t give me the joy that I felt I was being denied at Christmastime.  Christmas wasn’t about me, anymore, and it wasn’t about Tony, anymore.  It had become about my pain.

I lost a lot of Christmases drowning in that feeling.  I gave gifts, but not joyfully.  I received gifts, but they didn’t make me happy.

As I started to emerge from my darkness, Christmas started to become less about gifts, and more about spending time with my family, particularly as my brother’s family brought new lives around our tree, and as I’ve grown closer to my aunts and grandparents.

So, as I look at myself today, and how I’m moving towards this Christmas, I have to ask myself, what is this Christmas going to be about?  How will I judge the holiday: by my gifts received, by my gifts given, or by the contents of my heart?  My viewpoint has shifted from me, to my husband, to me again, and then out to my loved ones.  It sounds like a triumph of personal growth, doesn’t it?  I’ve come a long way in my progress towards the meaning of Christmas.

But if I’m honest with myself, I’m still missing the point.  Until I can honestly say that my gaze has come to rest, not on these people, but on the child in the manger and the man He became, I’m still missing out on the greatest Christmas gift of all – the gift of a Savior, the gift of adoption into God’s family, and the gift of moving beyond myself and towards eternity.

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