Friday, December 02, 2011

That Christmas Feeling


In 1981 I spent my first Christmas away from my family. It was just my husband, our 7 week old baby girl, and me. Instead of snow, we had rain. Instead of cold, we had humid heat. Instead of pine and fir, we had palms and orchids. 

No malls decorated with pretty lights adorned our tiny village. No Christmas carols played. No turkey. No cranberry sauce. The neighbours did put up artificial Christmas trees with lights that flashed - during the 3-4 hours in the evening when we had electricity. 


It was a stark and lonely season for us.  On Christmas Eve, Tim and I sat on our little couch, with our tiny baby between us and we both wept. And I knew something had to change.

I realized then that although the wonderful story of Jesus' birth was central to my Christmas celebration, I had relied on a lot of peripheral fluff associated with my culture to "get into the Christmas spirit." And I began planning. 


Christmas, in order to be properly celebrated, must begin in my heart. I love the season of Advent because I take time to focus on the coming of the Christ Child - what that means to me personally, and to the world. Hope, peace, joy and love. These are the gifts of 
Christmas, the essential core of why Christ came to earth. Mankind has often twisted and deformed the message of Christmas into legalism and dogma that lies far from God's intent of a gift given in love.

Returning to the center of Christmas, celebrating the presence of God in this broken world, is at the heart of my Christmas celebration. Once I prepare my heart for the joy of "Immanuel, God with us, God with ME" , the decorating, the baking, the presents, and all those peripherals of my cultural celebration can flow joyfully rather than dutifully into my life.  

One of the first things I put up, on December 1, is our nativity set, purchased in 1982 in a small village in Ecuador. Each piece is intricately hand-carved from walnut wood. Today it sits on my mantel, not yet surrounded by greenery and lights. Because the heart of Christmas is Christ. 

God with us. God with me. God with you.

9 comments:

Elizabethd said...

What a very moving post, thank you for sharing those deep feelings.
Your nativity set is so beautiful, simplicity itself.

Vee said...

Perfectly shared. I had a Christmas much like the one you describe one year in Arizona. (Okay, there were malls. And electricity.) I still have a photo of my sad sorry self looking pathetic. Makes me laugh.

Your nativity set is beautiful. Truly wonderful.

Barbara said...

I could almost feel your sense of sadness and isolation but what a lesson you learned from it Lorrie and what a difference it must have made to all your Christmas's since.

The carving is beautiful.

Carole said...

Thank you Lorrie for this post.

SLR said...

This is beautiful, Lorrie. As a career expat, I know the feeling you experienced. No matter where we go or who around us is also celebrating (or not), the most precious "decoration" we have is a mismatched manger scene with ceramic cows and plastic chickens and at least one wise man who lost his head. Never mind. We love him and he reminds us that no one is perfect but, as you say so eloquently, God is with us and the heart of Christmas is Christ.

Maggie said...

Thank you, Lorrie, for reminding us all what Christmas really means.
Joy To The World, indeed.

Carole said...

Ce post est magnifique. Très touchant. Je suis entièrement pour revenir aux sources de Noël et à la signification première de la Nativité.
Les personnages de ta crèche sont superbes.
Joyeux Noël à toi et à ta famille, et Paix aux hommes de bonne volonté !

Pondside said...

You write it so well, Lorrie. I'm having a hard time, missing the children at this time of year, and I need to remind myself that Christmas is, at it's centre, about way more than family dinners, carols and pretty trees. These are all wonderful, but the creche is where I should focus my attention.

Ashley said...

Thank you mom. This is encouraging to me, as this year is well, different. I don't think that I have any idea of what you and dad went through in Shell. But this Christmas is teaching me a lot about the season...even in this land of beautiful Christmas Markets!