The holiday season always evokes in me memories of Christmases past. At the advent of the season, Mommy and I would pull out the green and red construction paper, meticulously cut it into strips for the “Countdown-to-Christmas-Day” chain. Each day we’d remove a link and I’d know we were that much closer to the big day! I’d bug Daddy every day following Thanksgiving to put up the tree. Eventually he’d concede, descend to the basement and emerge with the artificial tree, lights and the collection of assorted bulbs and handmade decorations, and with a little help from me, he’d construct a Gaston Christmas tree masterpiece.
I still have memories of creeping into Mommy and Daddy’s room and slithering between them as they slept after having been terrified by Scrooge’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. They’d let me stay for a while, allay my fears and when I’d fallen asleep, Daddy would carry my back to my room and gingerly place me in my own bed!
I remember the sounds, the smells, the taste, the sights of our Gaston-style Christmas: Handel’s Messiah wafting in the air; the bouquet of scents that drifted from the kitchen as Mommy stuffed the turkey, candied the yams, kneaded the dough for yeast rolls. I’d surreptitiously grab a sliver of ham or a roll as they came out the oven. We’d gather around the piano and sing carols in not-so-perfect harmony. Then Dad would read the story of Jesus’ birth, while I sat on his lap, and we’d pray together as a family.
Mommy and Daddy would crawl into bed around 5:00 AM, after assembling my miniature kitchen set or setting up Barbie’s dream house and other various and sundry presents, only for me to crack open their bedroom door at 6:00 and announce, “It’s Christmas!” Mommy would groggily yet joyfully tumble out of bed and together we would go to the living room to discover the goodies “Santa” had left. I would anxiously wait for everyone else to wake up so I could watch them open the gifts I bought. Johannas, my older sister always managed to sleep til noon, which baffled me. Who does that on Christmas of all days? Mom would kiss and hug me and gush over something she’d probably never use. My sister, the least demonstrative member of the clan, generally responded, “Oh that’s nice. Thank you!” as she flung the gift back in the box, and Daddy would feign surprise and excitement as he opened yet another English Leather gift set.
Johannas would play over and over and over again the 45 RPM record of Nancy Wilson crooning:
When you said yesterday that it’s nearly Christmas; What did I want and I thought
Just love me, love me, love me! That’s what I want for Christmas
I knew I was just loved, not only at Christmas but each day of the year. The love of God was demonstrated to me through the love of family and friends and the sense of belonging I always felt.
I know that despite the laughter, the wonderful sights and sounds of the season, this is the time of year that aloneness and loneliness haunt most, the season when want, lack and need are magnified, and both the crime rate and the suicide rate increase. Behind the smiles and laughter, many around us are silently crying, “Just love me!” as they attempt to manufacture some semblance of the spirit of Christmas as best they can.
I recognize that I am blessed to have that which many cry out for – not only the love of family and friends, but Love Himself, living and loving in and through me. It is because of Jesus Christ that I know peace, I have joy, I have life! I also recognize that the Living Word dwelling in me desires to be made flesh in me and to shine His light through the darkness of those who may not know Him! It’s His desire that I allow Him to live His life large in me so that the world knows the true Spirit of Christmas — Emmanuel! God With Us!
What better way to manifest that love than by setting an extra place at the table, by wrapping a special gift for someone who least expects it, by visiting someone who may be alone, or sitting at the bedside of someone who may be ill? By simply taking the time to say to someone, “God loves you! Let me show just how much.” Then loving not just in word but in deed!
My prayer is that we become the unconditional, self-sacrificing love of Christ to someone outside our circle of family and close friends this Christmas by creating for them joyous memories of warmth, peace, and a sense of belonging as we Just Love!