The season of Christmas evokes the excited anticipation that something new, something spectacular, is about to take place. Sometimes I wonder if this is might be the same anticipation experienced of those who waited patiently for the arrival of the Christ child so many years ago.
Throughout the year I am watching and listening to those I love of the things they enjoy in life. Sometimes I start sewing or invoke my husbands wood working skills, and other times I spot something in an antique or specialty shop that is “just perfect” for that person. Then there are moments of humor or sadness that cause me to seek or create in passion, a special gift of love.
Christmas has a special meaning that I have always had a hard time explaining to my husband and others until this year. For me, it is not a single day of celebration, but rather a life long event that has taken hold of my heart.
For years I would spend the year thinking of those I love, who had less than myself, who were lonely, who were mean and had scarred my heart, as well as those who had treated me well. As the holiday arrived, the excitement of presenting these gifts was indescribable. The look of surprise, the joy of being thought of, gave me a priceless gift in return.
Yet, as the day came and went, there was a depressing sadness that I have yearned to understand. For many years I thought it was the result of childhood memories that left me depleted of joy, yet the fullness of the abundance of love with my husband, daughters and extended family did not equate this emptiness.
I spent a few nights talking with my husband, prior to the arrival of this years Christmas, as I shared with him what I desired most. I was looking for a Christmas that presented itself with joy, heartfelt love that did not end with my typical sadness at the end of the day.
For years, from the time I was young, I craved the “love” in giving that I remembered that my Granny shared with me when I was a little girl. I remember this one Christmas where we traveled to Missouri to celebrate the birthday of the Christ child in her home. Since I was the only girl in the family, I got to stay in her sewing room, that also served as her guest room, decorated perfectly for a young girl. My granny and granddad made me feel like a princess that deserved love and attention.
Please note, they did not spoil me as one might imagine, as she and my granddad just lavished their love on me in making sure that I was treated the way a young girl should be treated. When Christmas morning arrived, I was gifted not only with two new Barbie dolls (Barbie and Skipper), but I was gifted with a years worth of knitting and crochet work that provided me with a wardrobe for my dolls.
That Christmas was the first in which I experienced what the true meaning of Christmas and love in gift giving was all about. It was not about giving a present, but rather the gift of giving of one’s time and heart.
After this particular Christmas, life had many changes in store for my little girl heart, that would cause it to break and scar as tears shed with the bitterness of parental divorce, shame and abuse. Something changed, and although it was not “my” fault, a child of six can only imagine the worse when the world quickly falls to pieces around her.
Hope was the key element that kept me strong. It meant that despite my faith, I needed to awaken to the joy that was given to each of us. It meant, digging deep within myself in order to reach out beyond the scarring, so that I could receive the true message of Christmas.
Over the years, my faith in God has grown stronger, yet I still had an ache in my heart. I was blessed with a man who lifted me up when I felt as though I could never stand alone. We were blessed with three daughters who were the most precious gifts a mom could ever imagine having the responsibility of raising. My husbands family received me with grace and love, beyond what I ever expected. So, why was Christmas painful for me?
As I discussed the pains of my heart with my husband this year, the emptiness I experienced from my own childhood family, I shared with him the yearning for the loss of affection and closeness that never really existed outside the love of my husband and children.
The one gift that I requested from my husband this year was that of a love letter. I asked him to share with me why he loved me, what made him smile the moment he saw me, what made him desire to come home and kiss me each night? I in turn would give him a love letter as well.
Do not misunderstand. I love receiving gifts. It is part of who I am, as like anyone, I love to be thought of and to receive gifts. But, in a world so engrossed with the wants of our modern lifestyle, I felt that something was lacking.
Every year we give gifts to each other, yet in doing so, what is it that we are trying to say? I desired that we both take time to reflect on our love for each other, expressing it in words, sharing why our devotion was so strong. Like all couples, we have had some trials, so what is it that kept us together? It is so easy to say “I love you”, but what do we really mean when we say them?
In addition, with life being a little hectic these past few months, I needed to reflect a little on the true gift giving message. What is Christmas really all about? Why do we give gifts and why the abundance that is found under the tree of so many homes?
The answer for me was the gift that laid in that manger bed so many years ago. Sure, we all know this story, but what are the implication of this story? God did not shower us with fireworks or all our material wants and needs, but rather the love gift in the form of a child. A child with whom was nurtured, taught, grew with wisdom and strength in order to provide us guidance for our lives.
So, what is it about Christmas that stirs my heart throughout the year? After really looking from within, I discovered, that the excitement and anticipation was very similar to that of when Christ was born. People yearned for the newborn King that was promised, who would change the world. They waited years for His arrival.
Although I am not waiting for the newborn birth of the Christ child I do wait in anticipation of His return, or my time in being greeted into his Holy presence. I sense that my heart strings are tugged in a manner that sings a different song than most of todays world. I conform to what is right yet resist the intolerance of others. I discovered that Christmas to me is not just an annual holiday celebration, but rather a daily celebration of life and my faith.
For the first time in my life, the Christmas “day” has not ended with a sense of sadness, but that in the joy of discovery of who I am as a person.
May the love of Christmas be an unconditional, heavenly love, that fills not only your heart but also your life.
Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading, Editing, Freelance contributor