Thursday, December 24, 2009

Memories of Christmas

It's Christmas eve, and my thoughts are taking me down memory lane. Back to the Christmases I spent growing up in Ohio.

I grew up on a tenanted farm and my family was very poor. We were in good company. Nearly all of the other rural renters in the area were at or below the poverty line. Such was the norm in a state that has always suffered from economic instability.

It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized just how rich we really were in our lack of material wealth.

I saw glimpses of it at Christmas. In both receiving and giving.

I can remember with wide-eyed wonder waking up on Christmas morning, and while not getting exactly what I asked Santa for, it was a source of ceaseless wonder to me just how intimately that jolly fat old man knew me. I would get books for Christmas. Mostly, they were used books, but that didn't matter to me. What mattered were the authors and the subjects. Stephen King. Edgar Allen Poe. Tolkien. Science fiction, fantasy and horror. To me, these were the best presents ever. They were gifts that kept on giving to an overactive childhood imagination that I hope I never outgrow.

The best part of all was the giving. Every year I would get an allowance to spend on buying some little trinkets for the children in my family. One year, I accidentally bought too many gifts and had some leftover presents that would be for a boy, but I had no one to give them to. One week before Christmas, someone from town told my uncle about a family whose father lost his job. They had no Christmas tree, no food and no toys for their two young sons. Everyone in our family came together to bring Christmas to this family, who were worse off than we were. And the two boys had presents from Santa to open on Christmas morning.

We did that a lot. I'm not bragging about it. It's just something that we did.

My uncle had a Santa costume given to him and he enjoyed playing Santa for the children around our country neighborhood. Nowadays, he has gone from playing Santa for the kids to dressing up as Elvis and playing music for the elderly in nursing homes. My uncle likes to make people happy. I am grateful to have been brought up in such compassionate surroundings. It has increased my appreciation for what I have and has instilled in me a desire to share with those who are less fortunate than myself. It is put into practice most efficiently when I am able to give of myself all throughout the year.

This is what Christmas is really all about: A King was born into poverty so that he could eventually ransom himself for all of us poor, miserable souls. God gives us this most precious of all Gifts.

So let us celebrate the joy of giving through all of 2010.

My prayer for you this Christmas and New Year is not original. And it is not new. In fact, it's very, very old:

The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!  ~ Numbers 6:24-26

This prayer is most specifically dedicated to my friend (and CRHP sister) Debbie, who has taught me much about the Jewish heritage and tradition that Our Savior lived.  

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