Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Presence: Christmas Gift

Another series of theme posts with a few different voices. At least that is the plan for now. These are a collection of stories about people understanding Christmas better. Learning that it isn't about the Christmas presents from man, but the presence of God that makes Christmas special.

Today I am blessed to have a brand new voice here! Amy blogs at unchained faith and is open about the way she sees the world and Christmas is no exception. And we are the lucky recipients of an amazing story about what Christmas really means. Seriously, this story is so awesome and so about Christmas!

“Christmas isn’t about getting—it’s about giving!  And it’s especially about a little baby named Jesus, who was the greatest gift of all.” –Grandpa George, The Toy that Saved Christmas (VeggieTales)

Silent NightPhoto Credit: Jason A. Howie

I was fourteen the first time Christmas captivated my spirit.

Before that year, I had certainly enjoyed the holidays.  I liked the lights and the tinsel and the presents under the tree; I looked forward to watching the antics of the Grinch, Rudolph, and Frosty year after year; I ate gingerbread cookies with good will.  Back then, Christmas mostly meant time off from school and a trip to my grandparents’ house.

Christmas was also frequently a somewhat stressful time in our family.  My father, being Jewish, didn’t care much at all about the holiday.  My mother was bent on creating her fantasy of a perfect Christmas, which usually ended badly.  As a result, I never had any special attachment to the day.

When I started high school, a friend invited me to her church.  Wanting to spend time with her, I agreed to go.  I had no idea at the time that it would change the course of my life.

I’m not entirely certain when I began to realize that I had found faith. Having grown up in a Unitarian church, I honestly hadn’t known it was missing.  Slowly, over the months between the start of the academic year and the first snow, the mystery that is belief unfolded in my heart.

Whether it was the timing of the holiday or some other reason unknown to my adolescent self, we didn’t drive down to my grandparents’ place until after Christmas that year.  Instead, my father drove my mother and me to the Unitarian church for the Christmas Eve service.

I’m not sure why we went there and not the Presbyterian church I was attending at the time, nor do I have any idea why my father didn’t stay for the service.  I do recall feeling uncomfortable being in that particular church when I had already traded its unrelenting, angry anti-religion for my newfound faith in Christ.

As I sat next to my mother in one of the back rows, I felt my heart come unbound at the words of the familiar Christmas carols.  I had never understood what they meant before that moment.  In my world, Christmas had been trees and decorations and television specials.  Suddenly, as though some great veil had been lifted, I saw with clarity what made this night holy.

It was my Charlie Brown moment—the moment that I understood perfectly what I had been missing.

Christmas Eve has never ceased to arouse in me the same sense of awe that I had that night at my mother’s church.  All these years later, I can still recall with vibrant detail the sights and sounds of that faraway memory.  The best part about it is that now I have the chance to pass some of that wonder on to my own children, teaching them to see the beauty and the majesty born in that humble stable.

May the Light of the World shine on in your hearts at this season of the year.

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