An elderly man, a soldier during World War II, told a story about being stationed in a different state and therefore unable to return home for the holidays. He went to a local dance, where a family invited him home for Christmas. He remembered their generosity and compassion to invite this lonely soldier to spend Christmas with a family celebration.
Do you have that one, or maybe two or three Christmases, that are completely memorable for one reason or another? Why were they so different, and why do they stand out in your memory? If we’re fortunate to live long enough, we do get to celebrate many Christmases. Perhaps we wouldn’t say that Christmas becomes mundane, but if it’s relatively the same family, same location, and same traditions, they may blur together over time.
I can think of several Christmases which stand out as being different for one reason or another. Some were joyful memories, some difficult. My husband proposed to me on a Christmas day, hiding my engagement ring in a Santa ornament’s sack. That was perhaps one of my most unique Christmas gifts. Flash ahead five years later, and I gave birth to my first and only son Christmas week. While a joyful time in general, because he had jaundice, I spent stressful and exhausting days running back and forth to the hospital to nurse him and cuddle him in between his laying in an incubator under bilirubin lights. I remember crying Christmas Day at a family gathering, because my little baby wasn’t home and my postnatal hormones were going haywire, to boot.
Then there was the Christmas where we all knew my mom was terminal. We “cancelled” the family celebration and simply went out for dinner together, at my mother’s request. I remember feeling so desolate, literally knowing this was a final family meal, of sorts, with mom, before she eventually passed away in March. This was also the year that the Christmas tree went up in my house, but I spent so much time running back and forth to the hospital, the tree never got decorated. It stood, a silent, barren reminder, in the corner of my living room. We “celebrated” a very small, informal Christmas gift exchange in my son’s apartment over pizza.
Finally, there was last Christmas. Fresh off of my final chemo treatment, decorating and hosting a family event were far from my mind. This time my married daughter took on the hosting duties, and I thankfully played bald headed guest. (Ho, ho, ho).
This Christmas will be different as we travel afar to see my other daughter for the first time in two years. We did a local Christmas celebration a few weeks early this time.
Sharing these Christmas memories is not intended to make anyone feel sad. The common thread was Jesus was always there, in every Christmas. He celebrated an engagement and a new baby; He grieved my mother, loved me through chemo, and flies with me this Christmas Eve.