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06 December 2009

What Christmas means/does to me

Christmas has always been a difficult time of year for me. It is filled with such joy and promise, but that joy is bittersweet because along with that joy comes sad memories. Every year, for as far back as I can remember, I am filled with sentimental and melancholy feelings that creep up out of nowhere and leave me sobbing in my car as I listen to Christmas carols.

Happily, Christmas is mainly joyous. It is a time of expectation and joy and promise of renewal and salvation. While so much of the world has diminished Christmas to be little more than a commercial holiday about who can give/get the most/biggest/most expensive presents, this time of year really is about love and devotion and joy. Despite the rumors that the holiday is a secular one, it is actually a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates the promise of our eternal salvation and is cause for joy. While Christmas does have a long-standing tradition of gift-giving, our retail-focused society has turned that outward sign of love and affection into an opportunity to make a quick buck. But watching a young child tear open a much-awaited present and seeing their face fill with joy and elation is a wonderful sight. When you’ve searched high and low for the perfect gift for the ones you love and, as they open it, you know how happy and surprised they will be … that is a wonderful feeling. This time of year is so much more about giving than getting, but we too often lose sight of that.

While this is a happy time, for me, it is a not so gentle reminder of my sin and need for salvation. Being reminded on the amazing sacrifice that was made for unworthy soul is humbling. Knowing that someone loved me so much that He was willing to send his Son to Earth and than sacrifice him makes me feel all the more unworthy and emotional. This usually starts the tears.

Christmas also brings sometimes overwhelming feelings of melancholia. It is so hard to explain these feelings to anyone who has never had them. It’s a mix of mourning, reminiscing, and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. The mourning is easiest to describe. Christmas is a reminder of all those who failed to make it to this point in the year. It can be loved ones who have passed in the last twelve months or it could be those who have passed many years past. The most difficult for me is the memory of Sarah and Jenn and knowing that they should be here today, celebrating Christmas with their families … especially their own children. But, because they were taken too early, they will never have families of their own or celebrate Christmas by seeing the joy on their children’s faces. The guilt of being able to celebrate year after year while others cannot is sometimes too hard to bear.

Reminiscing about Christmases past is both happy and sad. It makes me happy to think of all of the wonderful Christmases that I have shared with those I love. Every Christmas that I get to spend with my loved ones is precious and special. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. I have loved watching my nieces and nephews grow and develop, and I look forward to being with my brothers and sister every year. But with those happy memories comes the foreboding knowledge that these magical Christmases are numbered. Every year that passes is one less that I will have with my mother and father, two people who have been such strong and loving influences in my life. I know that it is morbid, but the feelings come and I have no control over them.

There’s also something else that I can’t put my finger on. I don’t know what it is, but it hits me every year just after Thanksgiving and lingers until after the New Year. During this time, every song on the radio and every Christmas movie makes me want to cry. Maybe it is the parts of the whole coming together, or maybe it is something all of its own; I’m not sure. But, whatever it is, it makes Christmas both the happiest and the hardest time of year for me.
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