I used to love this time of year. I loved everything about it. The decorations, the music, the tinsel, the gifts, the onslaught of Christmas-themed movies and television programs . . . each of these once set my heart to beating a little quicker, set my feet to stepping a little higher.
I still love this time of year . . . but it’s different somehow. Maybe I’m just getting older. Hopefully, I’m getting wiser. But for some reason, I’m no longer the first person on the block to adorn my Christmas tree. I don’t feel I have to display every single Christmas decoration I own. And I don’t worry nearly as much about having every gift perfectly wrapped for December 25.
I don’t know when or why my blazing Christmas spirit began to fade to a more gentle, quiet variety. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that for the past four Christmases, my family has dealt with another C-word. A word not nearly so pleasant as Christmas. A six-letter word that has the power to stop us in our tracks. A word that has brought even the most stubborn unbeliever to his knees in prayer.
Yes, that’s right.
It’s a bully if I ever met one. It picks on the weak, and preys on the innocent. It threatens and claws and kicks and punches, trying its best to suck the life out of its victims. Cancer is unfair. It’s a mean disease, and it knows no limits, shows no mercy.
Right now, it’s picking on my dad.
But this vile disease has unknowingly brought some special blessings into our lives, as well. Somehow, when cancer shows up, things just change. Priorities shift. Big events seem less significant, and the mundane, ordinary things take on a new, cherished status.
You see, before cancer came into our lives, I took Christmas for granted. I always assumed there’d be another Christmas, another New Year, another time to celebrate. But now, I’ve wised up. I’m smart enough to slow down and cherish this season. I no longer stress my schedule with so much holiday cheer, I can’t possibly enjoy it. Instead, I leave big, fat empty boxes on my calendar to just be. To just live.
To just love.
I no longer worry over decorations and presents and wrapping paper and parties and recipes. Instead, I’ve learned that the real gifts of Christmas are the people God has given me to love.
After all, on that first Christmas, there was no light-festooned tree. There were no parties or cheese balls or ugly sweaters. And the only music was the sound of angels, celebrating a life. Celebrating love, for God is love.
This Christmas, I’ll eventually get around to decorating my tree. And more than likely, my husband will hang lights around our house, and our lighted nativity set will get set up in the yard. We may or may not attend every party, every event. And on Christmas morning, there will be presents to unwrap.
But this year, those things don’t signify the meaning of Christmas. My Christmas gift—the only one I want—is time with the people I love. I want to love them as much as I can, in every possible way, until the stockings of their hearts spill over.
I want to love them the way God loves me. And truly, if I can do that, I’ll have Christmas every day of my life.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God,” 1 John 4:7.