The Gift of Memories
It’s borrowed from a pagan holiday, a chance to find some merriment during the darkest nights of the year. It is Christmas, the season of uprisings against Starbucks, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and every other entrapment of a capitalist society. Crassly commercial, hopelessly tied to conspicuous consumption, it is our most over-hyped holiday. Yet try as we might, we just can’t quite ruin Christmas. Somehow, the wonder remains.
Earlier this month I watched the 50th anniversary of the first Charlie Brown Christmas special. One segment showed Charles Schultz explaining his decision to do something unheard of in 1960s primetime television. He decided to have Linus read from the Gospel of Matthew. It made me cry when I first heard it 50 years ago. It makes me cry today. No matter how we muck it up, no matter the day is nowhere near the season of Jesus’ actual birth, Christmas celebrates the God who came to live among us, suffer with us, and show us what it means to be fully human.
For most of us, Christmas brings memories both painful and precious. When our son was in kindergarten, the grade school grandparents sponsored a Christmas fair where the children could buy gifts. Our son chose a beautiful plant for his mom. The Grandmas wrapped it and sent it home, neglecting to tell him it needed to be opened right away. Weeks later, on Christmas morning, when Cathy opened her gift in front of her wide-eyed son, the plant had died. He burst into tears and ran to his room. Cathy went to comfort him and they came down a few minutes later, tears dried, hopefulness restored. The festivities continued, but to this day that is the only memory I have of that particular Christmas.
About 20 years ago, early on a Christmas morning, Lilly, our golden retriever, ate an entire rum cake, pushing the empty plate under the refrigerator, her feeble canine attempt to hide the evidence. When I saw my cherished cake reduced to crumbs, I banished Lilly to the backyard. The children ran downstairs and saw their beloved dog, shivering against the sliding glass door. They looked at me quizzically. I said, “Lilly is shivering because every bit of blood she has, blood that could be warming her extremities, is instead digesting our rum cake.”
All forms of celebration ceased. The children brought Lilly inside and took her upstairs, where they jumped in bed and pulled the covers up to her neck. I walked into the room and there lay my three teenage children with their contented dog sandwiched between, wearing the biggest doggie grin you have ever seen.
The memories of this season are many and rich. All warm my heart and leave a lump in my throat, grateful that in this season of long nights, I have been given so much light, and life, and love.
I hope this season brings you treasured memories, deep peace, and much happiness. Joy to the world. The Lord is come.