Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was struck with mixed emotions as December lingered around the corner. My granddaughter Lenni was watching her favorite cartoons one morning while we relaxed in our condo in Myrtle Beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Every commercial break was filled with advertisements for toys. When Lenni noticed the advertisement the first thing out of her mouth was, “I need that! Mommy I need that!” Next commercial up – same thing. My husband and I, along with her parents, laughed. Silently I was shaking my head. Realizing how not-so-subtle advertisers come into our homes enticing a 2 ½ year old to say, “I need that.” I don’t believe she knew what half the stuff was that she was wanting. It was more of an automatic response to an advertisement geared towards the youngest of children.
This is the part of the season I struggle with. Not that Lenni wants things but that many people feel they have to buy these things or it’s just not Christmas. They get into arguments over what they did, did not or could not buy. They are disappointed by what they received but did not want, or that they didn’t receive anything at all. They go into debt, experience regret, and often depression. These negative things are what people bring up as to why they don’t celebrate Christmas. “It’s another commercial holiday,” they claim. They are right, it is. We are all too busy running to the malls and cruising websites looking for the perfect gift.
I learned a long time ago that it is not about the gifts. One of my best Christmas’s was as a 9-year old girl when my family was separated. Our father was on a military base in Panama where he was stationed for a year. My older siblings were with my father’s parents, Mema and Pa, in Pine Bluff. I was with my mother and the 3 youngest kids in Memphis. Mama did everything she could to make sure we had a good Christmas. Each of us received one toy. Not any different from any other Christmas. My brother Bruce received a big plastic Batman mask which he could pull over his head. It melted into a big blue and black glob later that day when he left it on the radiator. I received a Midge doll. Not Barbie but her best friend Midge, freckles and red hair. For breakfast we had pancakes, not cold cereal as usual. We had a choice of milk and juice, not just milk.
We went to my grandmother’s house in the country after breakfast. I promptly dropped Midge between the slats on my grandmother’s porch as I entered the house. I kept going outside, peeking between the slats, looking for her, for what seemed like hours. It didn’t matter anymore that she was only Barbie’s best friend. She had been mine for a few hours and I wanted her back. But Midge was nowhere to be found.
Inside the house it was festive. There was food for days! A fine array of cakes and pies. Grandma had made coconut and German chocolate cakes, and Mama had made caramel and lemon cakes. Sweet potato, lemon and custard pies were displayed on the counter top. Best of all were the pecan pies made with pecans from trees in Grandma’s front yard. Relatives galore! Aunties, uncles, cousins and Mr. Cole. This was truly heaven! Truly Christmas! There was, of course, the wonderful Christmas dinner but that wasn’t as mouth-watering as the desserts. Being around family took the focus off what I didn’t have. I forgot about Midge. And maybe, just maybe, Mama was able to relax for a moment. Knowing all of her family was not together yet they were still being well taken care of. Extended family and friends making certain of it.
Perhaps If we pull back a moment and reflect on the Christ of Christmas, we might realize a deeper meaning of this season, and every season. It’s like the sermon my pastor preached a few weeks ago – before the Christmas tree there was the tree that Christ hung on – before the Christmas lights there was the light of Christ in the world – before the gifts we give there was, and is, the marvelous gift of Christ to the world for our salvation.
In my heart I really do love Christmas. Family, friends, gifts, food, laughter and all. Most of all I love and adore the gift of Christ in my life – not just during this season but every single day. Christ helps me to be humble and thankful. It is a time to stop and remember and reflect on who He is and what He is up to in my life and in the world. I need that!
Lenni’s Christmas gifts have been sent. One of her gifts is a bowling ball and pin set. Her mother Brittany tells me she loves going to the bowling alley to watch her father and grandfather bowl with their teams – at least as much as the distractions of the colorful vending machines nearby. What fun she will have, what memories she will treasure as she knocks down bowling pins at home and gets pointers from these loving men in her life. Does she need that? Oh yes – she needs that!