This is about the only time of year when we seem to breathe a big sigh of relief. For most of the year we muddle along, paying too little attention to what goes on around us, and focusing mainly on the nitty-gritty of everyday life. Then Christmas time comes, and there is a flurry of activity culminating with a feeling of being wrapped in wonder. But even as we struggle our way through the hustle and bustle, something seems a bit different.
I notice it most in Sarah. Generally, the last thing she would do is head to the malls in our area for any kind of shopping experience. It's not that she minds the stores, but the vast parking lots, the rampant consumerism and throngs of consumers are all things that irritate her almost more than I do. But yesterday she called me from her car, in the parking lot of the mall, where she had been waiting for more than 20 minutes just to get out of the parking lot. I expected a string of expletives, but what I received was a reasonable and sane person, not happy, necessarily, to be stuck in the mire of parking purgatory, but not at all overwhelmed by the experience.
And that's the way much of life seems at this time of year. Our tolerance grows significantly for the things that slow us down, or get in the way of our routine, or make us irritated, or feel like impositions to our everyday living. And I don't know about you, but it just plain feels good to me. I worry less. I live more in the present. I let go of things that at other times of year might nag me for days.
I suppose that what causes all this is that we expect to feel different this time of year. We expect people to be nice. We expect to be more forgiving. We expect to feel excitement and tolerance and compassion. And we are all focusing on giving; whether gifts of stuff to family and friends, or gifts of support to the needy, or gifts of love--giving is kind of the watchword at Christmas time.
It is arguably the most profound lesson of Christmas. It is not the size or expense of the gift. It is not actually anything material about a gift. It is from giving humbly and selflessly, with love and compassion, and with forgiveness, that we truly receive the greatest gifts; we receive the gift of tolerance, of inner calm and of a true love of humankind even that strengthens us even amid all the struggles of life.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we gave this way all year? It's not impossible.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year
This post also appears in Rev. Fowler's Blog--Eyes and Ears.
Rev. Ben Fowler
On this page I will occasionally make entries which will speak to the good works of the our church, to the spirit of our members or just to make observations about the nature of the spirit and life as I see it. Please make comments and add your own thoughts.