The holidays mean different things to different people. When I was a kid, it meant lots of eating and lots of presents, and not really getting what it was all about, I could behave like a selfish spoiled brat. In fact, sometimes I watch old home videos and can’t help but think that I owe my mom a very long apology.
But, as I got older, and I began to understand more about giving thanks, and celebrating Christ’s birth, my perspective on the holidays, and the way I celebrated, changed. I then became determined to bring more attention to Christ throughout the holidays, and to focus more on giving. And even though I was headed in the right direction, at that time, when others were not as thrilled with my desire to place Christ first or were not as thrilled with my giving spirit (bah humbug), I took such offense to it and would overreact to their rudeness. And as I always tell my kids, two wrongs don’t make a right.
Then I married, and began a family. My desire for perfect holidays only grew, and my belief that I could indeed make such an event happen. In my exuberance, I found myself as guilt as many at overdoing, and purchasing more toys than any child could possibly need or really enjoy. This just created an unpleasant situation that would later require me to seek the Lord for forgiveness, and require a lot of talks with my kids about how I was teaching them wrong with all the overindulgence, and though I could not change the past, I would not continue that route.
And that leads me to where I am today. I’m still learning, no doubt. There is still much I have not experienced and much I do not know. And there is much that God is still changing in me. But one thing is for sure, God has taught me a lot.
He has taught me to remember what we are really celebrating, and celebrate it in a way that glorifies Him. I have made the statement many times that sadly, we say we are celebrating Christ’s birth, but we spend so much money that we cannot pay our tithes, stay so busy that we cannot go to church (or neglect other things with the Lord that require time), and eat so much that we are committing the sin of gluttony. And that seems strange to say we are celebrating the birth of Jesus but we do all these things that are so displeasing to Him. I would not want those who claim to love me and have a relationship with me to spend my birthday doing the very things that they know I hate. What a slap in the face!
He has taught me that time is more valuable than stuff, and the memories that are built will last a lifetime while the stuff will eventually find its way to the trash or local donation center. When we talk about Christmases past, we don’t usually remember what gifts were given when, and only remember a few of the gifts anyways, but what we often remember and talk about are the things we did. We remember the shows we watch, the places we visit, the food we cook, etc. Sometimes my kids shock me with one of their “I remember” stories and how something that I never would have thought they would remember, they do indeed remember and remember with affection.
He has taught me to not put things off to another day. When opportunity arises to do something special or spend time with someone special, we should do it immediately, because there will always be something to stand in the way, and only you have the ability to say, “Everything else will just have to wait. Now is the time to do…” Scott and I have been guilt in recent years of getting so busy, and saying we’ll do things “later” but then later ends up being no that year. So now, I try to remember, work will be there tomorrow, and if it doesn’t have to be done that moment, I should seize the opportunity before me to create those special moments with my family. After all, they will all be grown and on their own in just a blink of the eye and “later” will no longer be an option.
He has taught me that life is not perfect, and neither are the holidays. But we are to worship Him the same because He has not changed, and He is still great, no matter what is happening. We don’t celebrate Him because life is good but because He is good and because He gave His life for us. I remember the first Thanksgiving that I understood the importance of praising God for all His blessings. My mom had a seizure and was diagnosed with a brain tumor that year. It definitely did not go my way, and was not perfect. And sadly, I pouted and refused to worship God that year. But with His long suffering and merciful love, He brought me through that situation and led me to the truth that we don’t base our worship on our circumstances.
And these are just a few things he taught me, but things that have impacted my life greatly. Things that I consider a lot as we are in the midst of another holiday season.
These things are the reason why Scott and I spent our Thanksgiving break not working every minute to catch up on all our work, but spent it decorating with the kids, taking them out shopping, doing some special cooking, and making a list as a family of all that we have to be thankful for.
They’re the reason our shopping list this Christmas is shorter, but our time-together list is longer.
They’re the reason we will take rides around town looking at lights, singing Christmas carols, and returning home to have a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of eggnog.
They’re the reason we will take time to watch our favorite Christmas movies as a family without a phone or table tin hand.
They’re the reason we will tell the Christmas story many times, and talk about all that Jesus gave to us, and how we can and should give to Him, not to earn anything or pay back anything, but just because we love Him and have a relationship with Him.
They’re the reason we look forward to and love the holidays, but in all honest, these lessons are not just for the holidays. They are lessons for all year. Christ should be the center of our lives all year long. Time is always more valuable than stuff, and so important to give. We should always seize the opportunity to spend time with those special people in our lives, as we never know when that time will be gone. And live will never be perfect, but we should always worship God the same.
And as we are enjoying our holiday festivities, I know the things that make this time of year special, are the same things that make my whole year special. God, family, and making memories. And as long as I remember these things, it’s going to be an awesome Christmas and a wonderful new year!