Saturday night we were trying to do something meaningful with our granddaughter, who is almost two. This is the first Christmas she may possibly remember, and we’re emphasizing Jesus’ birthday all we can. Hearing of a Living Nativity being put on by a local church, we set off tonight to experience it together.
It was a half hour drive, but Lucy had taken a late nap so we weren’t concerned. She was getting cranky by the time the church came in sight. Then we turned the corner to access the parking lot…and saw the line of cars coming from the other direction, who were waiting to turn right into the lot. The policeman with a light stick waved us on past, and we drove by, looking for the end of the line. We found it…a mile away.
So much for the Living Nativity.
We drove a couple of miles back toward home and stopped at a fast food place which has a play-land for kids. Lucy instantly made friends with a three-year-old girl and went down the curly slide with her over and over again. A hamburger & fries with ketchup completed her happiness. We cheered her on, and gave her a boost up onto the climbing shelves. Did it matter that we didn’t go where we’d planned? That we didn’t do what we’d talked about?
Not to Lucy it didn’t.
I happened to get a call from my brother (JTR) in the midst of this, and he reminded me of all the times that our mom had an “agenda” for some special Christmas event, but we were just as happy taking a drive to look at decorations, or sitting in front of the fireplace with popcorn and hot cocoa watching a Christmas movie, or (best of all) playing a board game as a family, laughing uproariously the entire time.
Did I say “just as happy”? What I meant was infinitely happier. Because those are some of my most cherished memories; those are the times that still make me smile, no matter the season.
Wonderful as the various holiday offerings are, and they are myriad, none of them can replace quality time spent together as a family. That often costs nothing at all in money, but it’s priceless for building memories, love, trust and joy. It’s the reason that our theater company will never do a major production in December (our Christmas show this year was performed the first two weekends in November). It’s the reason we don’t fight the crowds at the mall and stand in line with a cranky toddler in order to have a photo op with “Santa”. I talked to two moms today who admitted that their children don’t like sitting on Santa’s lap and usually cry. “So why do you do it?” I think to myself, but bite my tongue.
There are a half dozen theaters in the area performing Christmas-themed plays in the next couple of weeks, plus church and school holiday concerts, a Living Christmas Tree, Philharmonic Holiday Pops, several Messiah sings, two ballet companies doing The Nutcracker, a Gingerbread Festival, special Christmas displays at conservatory, museum and shopping mall, a “Celebration Tree” sound-&-light show at another shopping center…and we’re living in a smallish city!
What’s my point?
We complain with Charlie Brown that Christmas is “too commercial”…yet we Christians consume holiday events at a tremendous rate, too: we stand in lines, and fight traffic, and spend too much on tickets, and spend too much time in rehearsals, …and then the season is over. It’s over, and we’re exhausted. It’s over, and still we wonder (as we almost certainly did last year) where the “magic of Christmas” went.
I’m as guilty as anyone of not being able to see the forest for the Christmas trees.
Is it too late for all of us this year? Is it too late to challenge ourselves to forego some of our planned activity in favor of staying home, choosing instead to simply enjoy each other’s company? Rather than trying to create a Christmas memory, why don’t we elect to simply read a book out loud, or play a game, or even just retell some stories from our childhood to our kids and grand-kids?
Perhaps this year, we should try giving the gift of time, rather than regretting that we don’t seem to have quite enough of it.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:9-11