Mom's Eye View
The Christmas Question
When my three children were younger, I spent many a December day pondering what I could get them for Christmas that would make the holiday memorable. In those ‘little days,’ I always made sure they got at least one toy from the “Santa request list,” and then spent a considerable amount of time carefully devising places to hide the yearned-for gifts so they wouldn’t be discovered before Christmas morning. Maintaining the holiday magic was simple then—everything is magical through the innocent eyes of childhood—and even things as mundane as the sound of distant bells or a few wispy snow flurries seemed absolutely enchanted in the days leading up to Christmas. And the prevailing question focused merely on how to best preserve the gentle mysteries of the season.
But now that my kids are teenagers, worries over fumbling the Santa experience have given way to a new set of concerns about their lasting impressions of the holiday. As each year passes and they grow further from the cradle and closer to the door, I find myself asking a very different question: not what should I give them for Christmas, but rather what am I giving my children of Christmas.
I wonder what impressions they’ll take with them as they leave our family home and head into adulthood, and how those memories will shape the many Christmases they’ll have in the years to come.
It’s an especially complex question in a culture that has such conflicting standards of what constitutes a ‘good’ Christmas. The media tells us a ‘successful holiday season’ is measured by retail sales; the Post Office decides if it’s been a good or bad year by tabulating the number of cards and packages it processes during the month of December. And even well-meaning family and friends often send a rather shallow message about the day by asking the kids to sum up their yuletide experience via the question: ‘did you get what you wanted for Christmas?’
And what about the legacy I’ve given them through the holidays we’ve enjoyed together during their impressionable years? Do my children remember Christmas as a crazy time, marked by hectic schedules and frenzied dashes between the kitchen ovens and the shopping mall? Did they think what they wore to Christmas Eve Mass was more important than how they behaved once inside the church? Was the sudden convergence of various relatives for a massive feast followed by an even-more-massive gift exchange something they found overwhelming and stressful rather than joyful and exciting? And—most importantly—how did the celebration of the arrival of God’s Son in our world and in our lives fit into the Christmas picture I painted during those years?
They are old enough now that we can talk about these issues, and that’s part of my gift to them this season. We’ll share memories of Christmases past, and I’ll tell them what my hopes are for the holidays of their future. And I’ll lean on the example given by the most Holy Mother who lives in the heart of the season along with her divine Son. For Mary herself received wonderful gifts on that first Christmas—gold fit for a king, exotic frankincense from another land, the dark perfume myrrh, more precious than jewels. And she welcomed the original holiday guests, ranging from crowned royalty to penniless strangers. But whatever became of those treasures or how the visitors were fed and entertained during their Bethlehem stay is lost to history. There’s only one souvenir from that long-ago birth that mattered enough to be noted in the Bible, the only thing so highly prized that God ordained it be recorded for those of us who would come later to the celebration. St. Luke tells us that what Mary found most precious were the memories made at the stable, and she would shelter them lovingly for the rest of her days:
I can only pray, during this holy season of new beginnings, that my children will likewise find joy and solace and renewal and purpose in the memories of Christmas, and that the baby born those many years ago will forever be cradled in their hearts.
|Copyright 2012 Miles Jesu. All rights reserved.|