Sometimes, when I am listening for what God is saying to me, the message is so direct, it can't be missed. Those are the times when I am forced into a situation I have been avoiding or those times when I just keep encountering the message over and over again. Usually, in those instances, I am hearing the message loud and clear, I am just avoiding really hearing it.
At other times, I feel like there is something I am hearing but it's like a sound that I can't quite distinguish - it's familiar or it hints at something but I can't tell what it means. All of my ponderings today are of the second variety.
The last two days have been really rich with simple and yet wonderful things that speak to me of what Christmas is supposed to be and that evoke such warm memories for me. I keep feeling this sense of comfort and safety and warmth. I feel this intense sense of belonging and quiet and peace. It's bliss and it's what I love most about Christmas. It's evenings that are sweet rather than exciting and tastes that are comforting and smells that smell like home. It's such a comfort.
I had begun to wonder whether my Christmas memories have more to do with where I live, in a reasonably affluent area (compared to the rest of the world) and in which there is no war and pretty much everyone celebrates, despite the fact that our celebrations may take different forms. I got pondering whether there are people around me who truly don't have those warm and safe memories that carry us through the hard times. While my family was pretty close to poor when I was growing up and there was a Christmas where there hadn't been gifts and an anonymous benefactor supplied my parents with gifts and a turkey, I had no knowledge of the struggles, I just knew that were had a family and we would be together and all of the familiar ornaments were around us and we would feel blessed. A friend came over the other day, though, and started to cry. She said that she hates Christmas because she has no warm Christmas memories - it was always awful, with her parents fighting, her alcoholic father angry and her being afraid of what might be to come. It really hit me - there truly are people, and people I love, who don't have that warmth to carry with them. I know I sound hopelessly naive, but in my world, despite the fact that people have horrible experiences, they do have those blessed times to remember and warm them.
It came to me that truly, while it's easy to dismiss those cloyingly trite Christmas memories as being shallow and unimportant but that would be wrong. Christmas is a time that we can truly bless the people around us and help them to build those feelings of love and comfort. While much of what Jesus had to say was challenging and compelling and, frankly, downright scary, there is still always that message of love, of the fact that we will be fed and we will have fellowship and we will have someone counting the hairs on our heads. It made me want to bless everyone I encounter - a homemade knitted gift for my friend's mother who is sinking in alzheimers, a warm and welcoming Christmas Day breakfast for my friend the widow who misses her husband so much at Christmas, a welcoming Christmas party for my daughter and several of her friends, a hand-knitted hat with a letter to welcome a refugee, a small gift for everyone who cares for my kids. It made me change my perspective from one of trying to get everything done to one of trying to make each experience a blessing. I want to treasure each chance to help someone to build a memory, to feel a sense of love from someone and to know that he or she IS NOT ALONE.
That is the gift I want to be able to give this Christmas and it is a gift that gives to me as much as to the person to whom I am giving.