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Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Column

Remember when you were a kid and it used to take forever for Christmas to get here? You'd impatiently mark off the days on the calendar and try hard to keep from getting frustrated at just how slowly the days were passing. Somewhere close to Christmas, you'd get Mom or Dad to take you out shopping for Christmas presents for your siblings, your parents, and any grandparents who might be staying at the house for Christmas. You'd watch all your favorite Christmas specials, especially A Charlie Brown Christmas. You'd pretend to suffer through the puppet version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, your youngest sister's all-time favorite Christmas special (even now, over forty years later), but not really mind it too much because it meant Christmas was just a bit closer.

Then Christmas morning would arrive and you'd finally get to tear into your gifts. An hour, maybe two hours, and it would all be over. All that would be left was cleaning up the wrapping paper, eating Christmas dinner, playing with stuff you got and showing all of it off to your friends.

Then you got older and the Christmas rituals changed. You spend the year trying to set aside money for Christmas so you won't have to put everything on the credit card come December. Even so, the Christmas savings are the first thing you raid when cash runs short one month or when unexpected expenses pop up. Before you know it, Halloween is over, Christmas decorations go up in the mall, Christmas music plays in the stores, and the ever-expanding rush to spend, spend, spend for Christmas begins.

You try to sift through the items your children want, hoping desperately to narrow the list down to the items they'll actually play with or use. You try desperately to figure out what to get for a spouse whose answer to "What do you want for Christmas?" is "Nothing." You look high and low for something to give to your parents, who have more money than you and who can already buy anything they truly want or need for themselves.

If you're hosting the family for Christmas, you hit the grocery store multiple times, making sure you have everything you need to make Christmas dinner as much like Mom used to make it as possible. If you're traveling, you worry if that formerly-wished-for white Christmas is going to come along and strand you away from home.

You watch as your neighbors' houses seem to effortlessly sprout Christmas decorations, and you vow to put up some decorations of your own. In the end, you hope having your lighted Christmas tree visible through the window will do.

You scramble to wrap gifts. You call various package delivery services to ask why they claim your package was delivered yesterday when nothing was left at your door. You make the rounds of the other houses on the street, eventually finding your own package and, likely, passing along your neighbor's packages left at your house by mistake. You wrap more gifts.

But most of all, if you're not really careful, you forget. I don't mean you forget to get a gift for everyone. I don't mean you forget to buy the right ingredients to make the dressing. I mean, in the hectic, fast-paced, head-long drive toward Christmas, you forget why we call it Christmas.

Stop. Take a deep breath. Forget about what you didn't do or still need to do. Look around at all who are gathered together with you this Christmas Day. Take just a moment and give thanks for all those you love and who love you. Take just a moment and remember.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas to you all! And God bless us, every one!
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