The presence of Christmas

WARNING: not exactly written by Santa (or Jesus) . . . could have been written by a slightly reformed Scrooge.

Of all the holidays, Christmas packs the most emotional punch. It also has a huge economic wallop as well. It seems to be lacking in the original celebration department yet booming in the expectation market.

Christmas is great when one has a loving family, friends, and an ample bank account with the caveat that one wants to celebrate (some people don’t like to celebrate . . . their choice). If one those goes missing, the presence of the other two can still make Christmas festive. As long as one is willing to celebrate, it is still great absent any two. Minus all three, though, you gotta have a pretty special person who can still celebrate . . . for the same reasons. In America, I know that there are non-Christians who do not celebrate Christmas but they are happy for the day off from work or the boon in their economic status if they are retailers. There are others, though, who are friendless, homeless, and penniless. They are wondering where (or if) they belong in the festival. Looking closely at their stories, you might discover a physical, mental, or emotional illness, a series of bad decisions, and an unfortunate string of events. Any one of them could be me.

Each season, I come to grips with the insanity of Christmas. I have spent Christmas all by myself and felt very at home doing so. I have spent Christmas caught up in the anxiety of giving far too much of my resources just to see them discounted as not being good enough for the recipients. I let go of the expectation any necessary miracles. I got tired of the drama. I have even been just fine without putting up a Christmas tree.

I am very selective about what parts of Christmas I celebrate. I celebrate the presence of my loved ones. I might honor the gift of their presence with the gift of my own. I might hand them something significant to both of us. Most of all, I am letting go of the requirement that others make this day special for me. The gifts I give are not really gifts if I expect others to respond in kind. At that point, the gift becomes a bribe.

I am into self-giving. I make sure I give to myself first, to others next. I am unexpectedly, other-worldly, shamelessly selfish in the gifts I give to me. The first gift I give to myself is that of gratitude. For everything I imagine that I lack, I name two gifts in my life that I am grateful for. Before too long, the abundance of what I have in my life overshadows and tumbles over any imagined lack.

I am not sure anyone would want to bank my gratitude and try to buy groceries with it, but I know this: ever since I started giving myself the gift of gratitude, there is not an empty space to be found in my cabinets and refrigerator.

I am full.

Happy Christmas.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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8 Responses to “The presence of Christmas”

  1. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    . As I sit here in my jammies this morning after a late night, midnight Mass, and then I returned home and I was up til three wired and reading a trashy novel, I settle into your thoughts this morning.
    I waS always told when growing up that self giving was selfiSh and self-serving, implying that this was something sinful..Now I realize that if I don,t fill my heart, how canI do that for others.

    It is dificult at best to make this balence, as I too sometimes struggle with the lack of wanting to celebrate and put myself out there when felling a bit vulnerable, edgy, fearful, not sure of myself. Some would be shocked and say ” No, not Kim” … – do presentions, lector, take charge in meeting etc…..
    I guess that sometimes that vulnerability makes us stronger, as the love remembered at Christmas in the form of a little blessed babe in a manger, however there is a much stronger message behind the celebrating…

    Merry Christmas to you!! And new adventures and journeys in the coming New Year…- have so much gratitude for friends like you that share the joy and challenges that make us present…

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kim — somehow, you and I got the message that we are supposed to give to others; I was stuck with that message for many years until I started asking: why am I the only one required to give away everything? How about those people who are doing all the taking? What’s that all about? That’s when I discovered grown-ups had used the “giving” thing to control me and make their lives easier. It was a nasty trick. I have just as much right to take as anyone else.

  2. holessence Says:

    Barbara – I laughed when I read the opening line of this post.

    I have a huge issue with the commercialism/materialistic aspect that Christmas seems to have turned into. Not by everyone, certainly – but the consumerism facet of this holiday has dwarfed everything else.

    I love the lens you use – Gratitude. And it’s a daily lens. Not reserved for just one day a year.

    Thank you for this post.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — my favorite Christmas presents are those that involve doing something for others, giving in a way that can’t be bought or wrapped up. I did very little buying this year, mostly for January and Kristen. And I bought them items I know they needed (well, January doesn’t NEED those American Girl accessories, but she sure loves playing with them).

  3. passionatepresence Says:

    Amen on the Christmas sentiment… And Thank you for the gift of gratitude we can give to ourselves whenever we want.

  4. sandiwhite Says:

    Let me be the next to thank you for the post that reminds us. not of what we want, but we we have already received. Gratitude is a Gift, to have enough and be glad for it. To not pine and fret for what we don’t possess is such a waste of time, time that could be better spent in counting our Blessings. The simple Christmas I shared with my Daughter Missy today, the snow that fell all day long ( Atlanta’s Christmas miracle, the first in 128 years!), the gifts and phone calls from friends and Family, the laughter with neighbors were all things of joy that I am very grateful for today. The Christmas Eve Communion service at Church yesterday evening put it all in wonderfully clear perspective, ” For unto to you a Child is born….”

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      You are so welcome, Sandi, and congratulations on your white Christmas. You point out all of the wonderful gifts we receive not only on Christmas, but all year long. I’ve been reading the origins of Christmas and find that it really is to celebrate children; I want to include the child within each of us, too. Mostly, I am glad to be free of the way life is “supposed” to be. I find it perfectly fine just the way it is.

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