I hope your Christmas day was everything it was meant to be. Mine was, even if it wasn't everything I thought it should be, it was everything God meant it to be. And that was pretty glorious.
So we were in the middle of our glorious Christmas morn. Well, glorious by our standards--which involves a lot of jumping off couches, screams of joy, and general whooping-it-up mayhem, with a little sibling rivalry and "Stop that, or you'll go to your room!" thrown in for good measure. I've said it before: we're a wild crew. At some point, we decided to take a break from the present-opening extravaganza (for which I bought almost nothing, yet God deluged us with the most beautiful hand-me-down gifts.) I baked up a mediocre egg and sausage breakfast casserole, and we congregated around the table. (Note: I didn't say "sat down." That's out of our league at this point. Baby steps.)
There was general merriment, as the children discussed the gifts they'd already opened, and the ones they hoped they still might get. Suddenly, my oldest child blurted out, in all sincerity,
"Hey everybody! Do you know what my favorite holiday is???
[insert one millisecond of suspenseful silence]
Saint Patrick's Day! I just love wearing all that green."
I sat dumbfounded for a minute, waiting for a great big "JUST KIDDING!" or some other retraction, but it never came. He dove right back into his eggs without skipping a beat. The other kids looked at him cockeyed for a split second, and rolled with it. (I probably should have rolled with it too, but I tried arguing with him, before I realized, "Why?")
And his left-of-center comment got me thinking. It got me thinking about myself; about how many times in the midst of God's lavish grace, I totally miss it. I may not miss it maliciously, but I'm still missing it; missing the gifts God's piled all around me. Right that very minute. And I miss it, just because I'm thinking about something else.
It's easy to forget that I'm living the best time of my life right in the midst of the dirty kitchen floor and out-of-control kids. While thinking about cleaning up and getting the kids "settled down," I forget that the dirty floor and the crazy kids aren't detractions from the dream, they are the dream.
At one of my Al-Anon meetings recently, a woman shared an edgy mantra she'd created for herself during the holidays to help her readjust her expectations: "Kill Norman Rockwell."
"I know, I know, he's already dead," she said. "But I just have to get it through my head that it's almost never like that, and then if it all somehow works out, I'm just pleasantly surprised."
How much of my life do I spend waiting for Norman Rockwell, when God's blessed me with something very different, yet wonderful? I can miss the wonder and the joy of the "best days of my life" through nothing more than sheer oblivion, if I'm not careful. Or, I can miss it, by wishing for something else. Either way, I can miss the chance for gratitude.
This Christmas could have easily been a time when I felt sorry for myself: "The Christmas after my marriage fell apart," or "My kid's first Christmas without their Dad," or something like that. Instead, God sent me the message loud and clear that this year, I am to rejoice. I have so much to be thankful for. My heart was seared with the realization that life, in and of itself, is to be so treasured. My eyes opened to see that I am surrounded by others whose hurt and pain is so much greater than my own:
A friend who sat, a hollow shell of her formerly vibrant, free-spirited self at Christmas Eve church service: unable to speak or stand after a recent massive stroke. Wheelchair bound, she still tried to rouse herself for her favorite carols, but could not.
A lonely family member whose cancer has returned. In three places.
A young mother: her 34 year old husband dying of Lymphoma at a nearby hospital. She, with a two year old daughter: begging for prayers on Christmas Eve night for how to guide her daughter through a final goodbye to her Daddy.
I am speechless in the face of others' agony. As I am surrounded by stacks of both literal an figurative gifts, I bow humbly before God. I beg Him to show me how to treasure up all the blessings He's given me, and hide them in my heart. Like Mary....
I want to pay attention, and be "present" in the time that God gives me. I don't want to miss the fact that I'm living amid blessing heaped upon blessing, every morning that I still wake up with the gift of life. I don't want to miss Christmas Morning, pining away for a paltry St. Patrick's Day.
I "Gotta Get Up" because I do not want to miss it.
Rich Mullins': "Gotta Get Up" about Christmas morning.
P.S. I have no problem with St. Patrick's Day. It's a wonderful holiday, in and of itself. But it's no Christmas morning ;-)