I’ve always moaned that the holidays were like having a part-time job on top of an already packed schedule. If you read “Stuff” then you know my dilemma. I just couldn’t do the same thing another year. I wanted to, dare I say, enjoy the season instead of dread it. I didn’t want to be Scrooge as I traipsed through mall after mall complete with my list and my bah-humbug attitude. It’s not that I didn’t love those for whom I was shopping; I just felt that meaning had been replaced by obligations and expectations so the joy was lost in the hustle and bustle.
I started making my lists in October, as I always do, when I was visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The Ghost of Christmas Past gave me a tour of my childhood home where three little girls were bundled up as they marched across a snowy field to Grandma’s house. As always, she stopped whatever she was doing and brought out cookies and coffee. She let the little girls sneak and drink coffee or sugar with a dash of coffee! They were warmed by her old-fashioned stove and unconditional love. Grandma sat with her little girls, smiling and laughing as they drank their coffee in her special china cups; she always brought out her favorite china for her favorite company. Once back home, the three sisters decorated their tree and topped it with silver icicles and then, waited anxiously for Christmas morning. There was joy.
Our tour fast-forwarded to a time when there was a little girl and a little boy. Their mommy and daddy were laughing at three in the morning, one Christmas Eve, as they tried putting a Barbie Dream House together and an Elmo train set. (Might I add that the Mommy was way better at toy assembling!) The next morning, when their little ones bounded down the stairs with squeals of excitement, all the work was worth it even if Santa got all the credit! There was joy.
After the children grew, so did the obligations and Christmas changed. The squeals were gone and the tinsel didn’t seem to glisten as it once had. As Scrooge watched her present Christmas, she saw a frustrated, stressed people-pleaser trying to do it all. While others were anxiously awaiting December 25, she was anticipating Jan 2. The Currier and Ives Christmas card that she wished to duplicate was more like Tim Burton’s “Nightmare before Christmas”. Looking ghastly herself, she just sighed as she waded through stores and poured over her lists. There was no joy.
She never really needed a ghost to show her the “Cratchit families” for she was sympathetic and mindful of those in need especially with the difficult economic climate. However, she did need the courage to say what needed said. After all, she knew the story well and that the Ghost of Christmas yet to come was going to show her what she didn’t want to see…what would happen if she didn’t pay attention to the lesson and make the necessary changes. It had obviously become a time of moral reckoning that required choices, otherwise there were undesirable consequences to come.
As my tour ended, I recalled a quote from Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. In Stave One of the novella where Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Past why he is fettered, the ghost replies, “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link and yard by yard; I girded it of my own free will and of my own free will I wore it.” My response to that timeless passage is…haven’t we all?
Before I could say a word about making some changes, my son and daughter came to us and asked if they could give up their Christmas for people they knew could use help. They just wanted to decorate the tree, the house and have an old-fashioned Christmas. I didn’t have to say anything. I guess all those years, our actions were speaking and they were listening and watching. We did more than drop some pennies in the Salvation Army bucket and what we did, we did all year long. Sadly, I just got caught up in doing what I felt was expected instead of what was needed. What’s needed is time; time with loved-ones, time with the Savior we’re celebrating, time creating moments to cherish and above all, time helping those in need. In doing this I believe there will, once again, be joy. Finally, we can recite those enduring words of Tiny Tim's, from the Dickens classic... “God bless us every one.”