I had to stop and take stock the other day as I read a post about the melancholy side of Christmas written by a fellow Christian. I understand that not everyone finds the season 'the most wonderful time of the year', but I was surprised at the depth of despair I sensed beneath the surface. For most people, Christmas can be a time full of stress - the busyness of preparations, added financial strain on an already stretched budget, and a social calendar that is bulging at the seams. But for many others, it is a poignent reminder of loneliness - when so many are bustling about from event to event, there are those that have nowhere to go and no one to share it with. Since so much of Christmas is wrapped up in fond remembrances, it can be painful for those that have lost loved ones.
A friend of mine who happens to be an Anglican Vicar, used to hold a 'Blue Christmas' evening during the holidays. She understood that there are many folks who find the holiday season difficult and who cringe while the rest of us are going about our merry way. I never attended - I'm an unabashed lover of the season in all its tinseled glory - but she tells me it serves a need for those who are feeling blue and need a place to share those feelings without being labeled 'Grinch'. Besides an uplifting service, some singing and a sharing time, they also ate a turkey dinner together.
Upon reflection, I am so very grateful that I have fond memories of Christmas. I'm grateful for family, and friends and a church fellowship with whom I can share. I am grateful for financial security that allows me to cook a turkey and all the trimmings, buy a few gifts and still have enough to share with the local food bank and other charitable organizations. Even in our more 'lean' years, the warmth and laughter of the holidays made each one special in its own way. I can't actually recall every gift I've ever been given, but I certainly remember the friendly rivalry around a game of canasta, or the excitement of my children as they woke us early in the morning to check their stockings. These are the kinds of traditions that stick with you and that make Christmas worth looking forward to. (By the way, we've maintained a strange tradtion in our family that involves the children lining up in order of age - oldest to youngest - before checking their stockings on Christmas morning. We did this in my family as a child and continued to do it with our kids. It became quite humorous a couple of years ago with the addition of sons-in-law now that two of my daughters are married. My girls still wanted to 'line up', but the new members of the family wouldn't cooperate. We had to compromise by entering the living room together!)
In any case, past all the pretence and the commercialism is the real truth of why we celebrate - JESUS. And for those of us that are believers, that should be enough.