December 22, 23, and 24
A different kind of magic
(sorry about the cheese! 'tis the season!)
As we have approached Christmas Day, there have been several delightful surprises. Visitors stopping on their way to see relatives, pretty packages arriving from home and invitations from new friends have all served to make this season feel extra special. We are all very grateful for the warmth we have received this Christmas. In spite of all the visits and treats and fun, however, my favourite activity was tonight.
Every year, we are so involved with church parties and concerts that December seems to just fly past without much warning. This year has been so different. And quiet. It has been a bittersweet mix of missing the party and participation and relishing the slow pace and opportunity to reflect. One thing we have enjoyed entirely is the opportunity, for the first time, to create our own traditions. We have never experienced a total lack of expectations before.
So tonight, we headed down to Metro. We served and ate dinner alongside the people of a beautiful inner-city community to celebrate the season. We smiled and shook hands and served coffee and cleaned-up. For three hours we watched from a distance as all four of our children genuinely grinned their way through an evening of hard work. At the end, I watched Shiloh give one of the two little stuffed animals she had just been given to an old man and tell him it was to make him happy.
Before we got there, we talked with our kids about who Jesus really is and what he came to say. He taught that we should not invite only those to dinner who can in turn serve us a meal. He taught that it is the lowliest servant that is among the greatest of mankind. He set the example that love can heal, sooth, restore and conquer. He told us that we are capable of becoming like him.
We have very little to give this year. Even to each other. We could choose to feel sorry for ourselves or apologize to our children for not lavishing them with stuff, but we're not going to. This discomfort we are experiencing has grown us individually and as a family in ways we have never expected. We have learned that enough is so much less than we thought. We have learned that there is a measure of blessing in having nothing to lose. This is a life experience that is stretching all of us and our perceptions about what we need and what we have a right to. We have watched and seen that even someone with nothing has much to offer. I am not sorry about that.
As we walked away from the dinner tonight, I listened to my children talk to each other about their evening. They expressed feeling content in a way they hadn't before. Levi said he wanted to remember that feeling for the next time he was grumpy or feeling sorry for himself. He said it was a special kind of contentment. I can learn a thing or two from these kids. I do learn, more than a thing or two, from these kids.
To me, this is Christmas magic. That my children can see beauty and whimsy and meaning in having nothing to offer but themselves. That they can be filled with joy in spite of the present pile being significantly lower than in seasons past. I can not think of any gift I could open that would mean more.