Many are with families today - gathering around home and hearth to reminisce on Christmases past.
Each of us bring to the table memories and hopes for the day. "Will everyone get along?" "Will the ham and turkey be a hit?" "Will they like the gift I bought them?" "I really enjoy church on Christmas Day."
Remembering family who can't gather with us is a tough part of the holiday. It's a tough reality to know illness and declining health affects those we love.
Recent Christmas holidays have changed for us - the boys have grown and moved away - so the holiday traditions take a different twist. Soon enough, they may have families of their own - adding to the excitement and anticipation of the celebration. The other change is the loss of my Dad. He enjoyed Christmas and setting up the decorations. Prayers of sympathy for those who are missing loved ones at their table this year.
Young and old sing the carols - passing traditions from generation to generation. The earliest notes of "Silent Night" unleash a snowstorm of thoughts and a blizzard of memories - my participating in the Christmas Eve St. Paul Lutheran School program - hoping all the memorization would pay off in a good recitation.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Children are frequently the focus of the season - probably so we adults can be a little more goofy and have more fun than might otherwise be proper. The Child of Christmas, Jesus, is why we celebrate. He received gifts from the Magi - wonderful gifts - but insufficient for the Savior.
Hearts can grow three sizes this day, but there are breaking hearts, too. The lonely, depressed, those seemingly without hope. It's a day and reminder to care for others... in the midst of your joy... give some away.
Recognizing Christmas can be difficult for us. It seems to arrive early - like a way-to-soon-to-the-party guest who stands around making small talk until the rest of the guests arrive more fashionably late. Even before Halloween we see the bright reds and greens and sale circulars in our mailboxes and at the mall. It creates a blurry distraction and shouts right over the quiet, peaceful, solemnity of Advent - who has time for contemplation when we only have three one-day sales to get to before the next payday?
Silent nights seem hushed by layers of fresh fallen snow. The silence of a clear Christmas Eve reminds us of how small we are in this vast universe. Gazing into the starry heavens increase that feeling - it's easy to imagine the Magi seeing a new light in the heavens and traveling many difficult miles to see what the light was all about.
Thanksgiving wasn't just a day in November. Christmas is a perfect time to give thanks: for family and friends, for health and employment; for the opportunities to serve and help others; and especially for the life-changing gift for us.
Making the most of Christmas can be a challenge. It is so easy for the day to be about us, instead of others. Try to avoid getting bogged down in silly arguments about how long to bake the sweet potatoes or who did what to whom many holdiays past. There is enough anxiety involved in large family gatherings - strive to not sweat the small stuff - and recall that with one exception... it's all small stuff.
Admiration is usually done silently, but this is not that time. Tell your aunt how much you like the salad she makes each Yuletide and pay attention to the quiet determination of the little ones taking on adult roles. They will appreciate a verbal bouquet.
Support others through non-profits in your community that make a difference. This day can all too easily become about us... turn the table and make it about others you can help. It's a way to share the gift of Christmas and extend the joy to all around us.
Thank you for reading - may you find the real joy of the season in your heart this Christmas!