Here we are in the days after the Big Day. I don’t know about you, but I breathe a certain sigh of relief. Nothing pressing, all buying, cooking and wrapping over with. It is a welcome of quiet space before the bustling of the New Year that tells us to, “Get going on all that is to come!”
Years ago, far back in 1987–my son recently asked me if I realized the fantastic fact that 1985 was thirty-six years ago–I was asked by my publisher to write a short story for a Christmas anthology. It was the beginning of my writing career, and I was thrilled to be asked, and, as I told the editor on the phone: “I adore Christmas!”
My editor replied, “I was sure you did,” and I could hear the smile in her voice.
Many of you are familiar with Miracle On I-40, which was originally collected in an anthology that was given away and then reprinted around the world, sold, reprinted again, edited and enlarged and reprinted in hardback, and on and on. I call it the little story that could.
The past two days, as I put away the few Christmas decorations I had placed around the house, I remembered back to those days and my lifetime love of the Christmas season. I believe I developed this love of the season from my mother. It is a time for me when all worries and disappointments vanish and I notice the magic of everything. Mama did this, simply closed her eyes to practical truths at Christmas and made herself happy for a season. Never mind that she and Daddy went deeper in debt and things with a difficult husband got more desperate with each passing year. When I think of it, this was how she survived, and it actually is a sort of strength. Focus on the good, on the love, drink it all in.
This year, for the first time, I did not put up a tree with the old and treasured ornaments. Without a blink, I chose not to.
“You’re not getting a tree, Nana?” my grandson asked with a puzzled frown.
“No…not this year.”
I was amazed I didn’t even miss it. I did, a bare week before the Big Day, put out the vintage ceramic tree that had been my mother’s. I climbed to the top of the cabinet and found my favorite Christmas mug and finally managed at the end of one day to put out the old and precious Nativity scene and assembled a few treasured pieces along the mantle. A friend made me two festive camping-themed wreathes for front and back doors, one has to put them out, and they delighted me. However, this small bit of decorating was a far cry from what I once did.
Have I given up my love of Christmas? I ask myself, a bit disconcerted.
I thought of how I used to try to hold on to Christmas, to wring from this season all the joy and delight and possibilities that I could. As if that can be done. Time and experiences cannot be held. As I pondered all this in the gray cells of my mind, I realized my love of Christmas remains, more surely than ever, and will never leave me. It has simply changed, as I and my life has changed. I realized that what matters to me now and always has about Christmas cannot be held in my hands.
I remembered this quote, and I find that I have reached a point where I–more or less–live it. I don’t wait for the magic of Christmas. I can choose it any moment that I wish. The really wonderful thing is that when the magic slips, I can turn my eyes to Jesus Christ and have my hope and the wonder of Christmas renewed again.
There is the quote from Charles Dickens in his immortal A Christmas Carol:
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Last night I stood out on the driveway and marveled at the stars. Today I smiled to see the love of a man pushing his little son in a play car. I enjoyed a second cup of the ‘good leaf’ tea. I told someone, “I love you.” I prayed, I laughed aloud, I marveled, I thanked God.
We can choose the Christmas state of mind any day and any moment. When we do, we are choosing life.