What Christmas means to me

It’s Christmas morning, and most of us are probably unwrapping presents, or fiddling with toy packaging of already opened presents, or cleaning up the paper and boxes and bags. Maybe we’re eating a special breakfast in our Christmas jammies or this year, getting ready for a church service. As you read, I’m probably doing one or more of those things. Just thinking about Christmas morning gives me warm fuzzy feelings from head to toe. It’s the kind of moment where you wish you had a pause button for life so you could look around a little longer and take it all in.

The tree.

The lights.

The joy.

The giving.

The smiles.

The hugs.

The everything.

Christmas was special even before I knew about Jesus or his love for me. It still is but in different ways.

This year, one of my priorities for Christmas was to give. We don’t have a lot to give, but I wanted the special people in our lives — particularly the ones who have helped us in some way — to know how much we appreciate and love them. So, the kids and I made gifts. We made ornaments/fragrant wall hangings like these.

¬†We layered cocoa mix in a jar and made moisturizing¬†hand scrub. We whipped up a batch of our increasingly famous molasses softies. We sorted and bagged and wore ourselves out. Then we delivered. To Isabelle’s teachers at the Y. To church friends. To our mail carrier who is also our neighbor. To our landlords, who are also our neighbors. And to the firefighter who came after dark one September night and pumped nearly 30 inches of water out of our basement. He, too, lives in the neighborhood.

It’s this last delivery that affected me the most. I’m not brave or bold when it comes to approaching relative strangers or knocking on doors or making unprepared remarks. I put it off till almost the last moment, delivering the package when I was sure no one was home and on the day before we left for Illinois.

I left the bag of goodies on the front porch. Just stepping onto the porch broke a barrier in my mind. We have walked past this house many times on our travels around our block. But setting foot on the property, leaving a gift and a note, making contact, felt like an invasion, but not an unwelcome one.

Maybe this will help say what I felt.

So much of what happens in my daily life feels self-absorbed. Or self-protective. I often insulate myself from anything beyond what’s necessary to survive a day of parenting. Like talking to grocery cashiers. Or committing a random act of kindness. Or giving what I don’t have. I don’t open my world to anyone else, and I’m surprised (sometimes annoyed) when someone dares break into it.

But isn’t that what Christmas is all about? God in Heaven, when the time was exactly right, when all hope was almost lost, broke the barrier separating the earthly from the spiritual, and became human. He made contact with His creation by taking on flesh. We call him Baby Jesus, Jesus Christ, Messiah, Savior and a host of other names.

Jesus’ birth gives us hope. We are not alone. We do not have to fend for ourselves. We are not lost. Someone cares. And sees. When life seems dull and gray, the Light of the World bursts into our lives like a ray of sunlight on an overcast day.

Maybe we didn’t ask Him to get involved. Or take notice. Or intervene. But He did, and by this, we are encouraged.

My biggest fear when I do something like deliver cookies to a neighbor I hardly know is rejection. What if they think I’m being nosy? Or what if they don’t like cookies? (Seriously, who doesn’t like cookies?) What if they don’t want visitors? (Some of our neighbors have a “No Trespassing” sign in their windows.)

I let the fear keep me in my own house, convincing me it’s safer to stay inside and mind my own business and not get involved.

But on those rare occasions when I do cross the street and knock on the door, I’m exhilarated. People are polite. And grateful. Sometimes they even reciprocate, which is not my goal at all. They smile, and I leave wondering what else I can do to unexpectedly bless someone.

I followed up the gift-giving with Christmas cards. Hand-written. Personal greetings. Licked, stamped and addressed. I love e-mail and text messaging and Facebook and Twitter. But none of that compares to a card sent in the mail. It’s that personal contact again. A sign of someone else in their world thinking about me in my world.

So, if you’re reading this on Christmas Day (surely you have better things to do on Christmas Day!) or the day after or a week later, think on this: How can you pleasantly invade someone else’s world to bless, encourage and offer hope? If answers to that question don’t come easily, then think about what you’d appreciate and do that. And when you do it, leave me a note here. I’d love to hear all about it.

Merry Christmas!