A friend was talking to me yesterday. She had struggled through an abusive marriage, painful divorce, trying to keep a roof over her head and raise three children. She has health problems, too, and it seemed that for twenty years all she could see were pieces of shattered dreams at her feet. She said something that really struck me– “I let Christmas get hard for me over those years. I don’t have to do that anymore. I can let go of all that and claim the joy of Christmas again.”
That’s it, isn’t it? We let things go, let them be buried under the inevitable difficulties of life. My friend reminded me that we don’t have to do that, and that it is up to us to claim our joy. No one can do this for us. We each have to do it ourselves.
No matter where we are, no matter how large the painful circumstance, or maybe a nagging one that has been hanging on for years, we don’t have to let that pain overshadow the joy of Christmas. Christmas joy is a gift already given to us. All we have to do is open our heart to accept it.
As a gift of joy to you, I’d like to share an excerpt of a short story I wrote years ago for a Harlequin Historical anthology, entitled Once Upon A Christmas…
From Once Upon a Christmas, by Curtiss Ann Matlock © 1993
In 1875, Olivia Pritchett, a widow, leaves North Carolina with her two children, Will and Henry, and travels to Texas to begin a new life as a bride. When they arrive a week before Christmas, Olivia is informed that the gentleman she had planned to marry had died three days previously. She is now stranded, leaning on the generosity of a rancher, with little money and a sick child, Henry.
“Will we still have Christmas,” Henry asked her, his eyes wide and round and worried.
Oh, yes, my darlin’.” She swept him into her arms. The final thread of composure was fraying, and she frantically tried to hold on to it.
“I’m going to tell you a secret, Henry. I can tell you because it’s something you already know.”
He searched her eyes, as she said, “Christmas is not something we have. Christmas is something that comes–always–and can no more be held back than can each new day.
“Christmas doesn’t depend on man or anything he does or doesn’t do, because he never brought Christmas in the first place. It doesn’t have anything to do with things goin’ on in the world. It makes no difference if there is snow or not, or if people are fightin’ each other or loving, or if greens are hung or the walls remain bare, or if there is turkey and pudding for dinner or just beans and cornbread. It doesn’t even depend on Santa Claus and his gifts. None of that brings Christmas or keeps it from coming. Just like one day follows another for people rich or poor, mean or kind, Christmas comes to everyone in the world. Why, you could lie right in your bed over there in the loft, and still Christmas will come to you. The secret is that a person has to believe in Christmas, or it simply passes him right by. Comes and goes and is never seen.
“And this isn’t a secret a person can be told about–it’s something a person must learn for himself. You must allow yourself to see Christmas when it comes–and then nothin’ can take it away from you, honey. And you already know that. You believe in Christmas, so it will come to you.”
His eyes shone with bright understanding–the pure belief of a child. Then he looked very solemn. “You learned that in the war, didn’t you, Mama?”
“Yes, Henry. I did.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Claim Christmas joy this year, darlin’s.