Today I tried to help us get a jump on the holidays by encouraging us to have a more child-like faith. Jesus said “unless you become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 18) Children are filled with wonder and hope; seldom worrying about tomorrow. You can hear the complete message HERE.
Before I even returned home from church I had this email waiting for me. I thought it was a good enough story to share, so I asked the writer for permission.
Today when you asked who already had their Christmas tree up, I had to proudly smile and giggle inside. Let me tell you why.
I don’t really remember much about our family Christmases before I was 10 years old. However, I will never forget Christmas the year I was 10 (1990) and how it changed my family forever. Rather than waking up on Christmas morning and running to see what was under the tree, I was woke up and given my first lesson on death. My grandma had died, just that morning. Being the age I was, I didn’t understand why Grandma had to die in the 1st place (she was only 60), and why she “Went to live with God” and left us on Christmas?
The following weeks were the most trying for my family as my mother and her 2 sisters struggled with the death of their mother after having already lost their father to suicide when they were just children themselves. I remember them yelling and screaming, blaming each other for things from decades past, and my 2 cousins and myself just got lost in the shuffle of it all. We were told that missing Grandma was not something to talk about because they missed her more. After all it was their mother. We were told that there was no Christmas that year and that there may never be another Christmas for this family. That’s a lot for 3 small children to digest.
The years that followed were rarely joyous or spent celebrating. The season itself was a reminder of the loss and just seemed to stir up old hatred and still raw emotions.
In 1998 I married into a huge family with just the opposite approach to the holiday. Everyone gathered each year at Granny and Gramps’ house in the country where there was no internet and even my father in law’s satellite cell phone didn’t get a signal. The holiday was spent as a family laughing and singing and giving gifts in honor of the birth, and life, that was being celebrated. No one yelled or blamed, no one slammed doors or cried. I, however, had a meltdown. My young husband of 18 years of age didn’t understand why I wanted to hide in the upstairs bedroom and just cry alone. It was all just too much and very overwhelming for me. I felt I had been robbed of a holiday that should be about happiness by a family that couldn’t see that they were destroying it for us kids.
For the 8 Christmases following that, I didn’t put up a tree. I didn’t really decorate. I hadn’t been to church since I left home, and I really didn’t see any need in acknowledging the holiday at all. Several of those years my husband was deployed and I spent Christmas in our home, alone with just my dog and some movies to fill the time until I went back to work on Monday.
This year though….something in me changed. My daughter is 2 ½. She had a very rough start in this world but is doing amazing now. We walked by a Christmas tree the other day and she lit up! For a child with severe social delays and inabilities to display much emotion, this was a moment I never thought I’d see in her. She smiled, laughed, and clapped her hands together. My heart stopped. It was clear as day, Christmas had to be celebrated this year, if for nothing else, for the joy of my child. I bought a Christmas tree, ornaments, and a toy nativity set. Last night while my daughter played with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, I assembled our tree and decorated with all the lights and tinsel I could find. In our attic I came across old ornaments I literally had not seen in 18 years. They reminded me of those awful Christmases of my childhood, but I hung them on the tree anyway. Now they are a reminder that even with all I had felt about Christmas for so long, there was still a reason to celebrate.
It took many years and the birth of my own child to bring me back to celebrating the birth of another very special child. So, yes, my Christmas tree is already up, and decorated, and underneath it sits a simple manger scene with the true reason for the season.
Thank you for your message today. It really hit home in my heart.