Luke Chapter 2 begins …
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). And everyone went to their own town to register … “
And we are off and running. The Christmas Story once again underway. It is what Christmas is all about – all the rest is “wrapping” (we are told each year). And the non-churchies poo-poo that and remind the churchies of “pagan festivals”. And most of us hear the noise and carry on as usual.
I have spent just one Christmas in six decades without family. One Christmas Day out of sixty Christmas Days is 1.67% – which (in big picture-terms) is miniscule. In opinion polls that is a very acceptable error rate.
Yet it is the Christmas Day I remember best.
I can tell you almost every detail of that one Christmas Day. I can tell you that a lot of others spend a Christmas Day without their families. A lot of others spend a Christmas Day working. A lot of stuff happens without being in the middle of family. And traditions and warmth and love and stuff we take for granted … ?
That Christmas Day it was not all about baby Jesus and the Christmas Story. It was not about whether Christmas has become too commercialised. It was not about gluttony and indulgence and “why?” There was none of the tradition of “tension” between the secular and religious. The tradition of intellectual right and intellectual wrong. There was just a massive hole.
Where family should be.
It wasn’t even a feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t pity. It wasn’t anything that is nice and neat (that makes sense to you). It was nothing you could heal (by telling me why I felt that way). It was just a massive hole. Where family should be (and was not). That is why I remember that one Christmas Day above all others. So for me religious AND secular “tradition” … ?
They are the same.
Both assume something massive. Both assume family. Both assume not being alone. Both take so much for granted. Neither expect a massive hole where family isn’t. Just like I never assumed for 98.33% of my Christmases.
I love the Baby Jesus story, just as I love the Presents and Indulgence tradition. But I have learned I love one thing much (much!) more. I love not having a massive hole inside me.
I love that there is no hole as each new Christmas Day approaches. Because the absence of “that massive hole” is the best gift I could ever have – it is the only gift I really want. And that gift costs nothing – and everything – all at the same time. But having lived just one Christmas Day with a massive hole inside – every Christmas Day is now fused with the memory of that One Day. It always will.
Sometimes it makes me sad – all mixed up with others who will have that hole this Christmas. Other times it makes me even more thankful for the family we enjoy – all mixed up with the joy other families share. And sometimes I ponder what might have been if …
But always this absolute truth.
I had no desire to change your Christmas Day. My massive hole was mine not yours. And I wanted you to enjoy your Christmas Day even more because of that. Because then I could live Christmas Day by proxy. I could “borrow” your joy just for a while. My massive hole healed and tore that whole One Day. That hole – like anything inside anyone – is never static.
So this Christmas Day – instead of isolating those – who have – or may have – or did have – or could be (or even “should be”) suffering a massive hole this Christmas …
Hear my smile. Feel my smile. See my smile. Offer yours. Share a joke. Embrace in a hug. Make me the same. Make me normal. Make me part of Christmas. Allow me to borrow some of yours. Allow me to have Christmas Day with as small a hole as I can make it.
Because that is what I am doing for you.