my grown-up Christmas

for the first time since i moved to kansas in 1979, i did not wake up today (Christmas morning) at my parents’ house. it’s quite possible i have experienced selective amnesia on this, but i’m pretty sure it’s true. actually, i didn’t mind working on Christmas this year. my sister is in – get this – austria. her boyfriend’s parents live there. and rene’s parents have been in south korea with her cousin and family for the holiday. talk about worldly!

i spent a good chunk of Christmas eve napping in order to stay up for my shift, midnight last night to 8 this morning. we went to the candlelight service at church. and that is where my traditional patterns ceased. i did not watch any of the movies one associates with Christmas (it’s a wonderful life, a Christmas story, miracle on 34th street, elf, white Christmas, holiday inn, etc.). oh wait, that’s because i already had earlier in the month. gotta love netflix! i did not put out any presents, but that’s because my supervisor was there to set out the kids’ gifts. it was pretty cool knowing that my (well, actually our – rene helped) efforts to raise extra funds by selling otis spunkmeier cookie dough had paid off. not only that, one of our friends bought cookies but asked me to bake them for all the kids at the facility. talk about a sweet treat for Christmas morning.

on the drive home, i called each of my grandparents. a small gesture, but before it’s always been them calling my parents’ house and me taking a turn on the phone. when i got home, we opened no presents, other than stockings full of candy. (we’re not doing Christmas with my family until january.) rene and i watched a movie on our new tv, then i settled in for a nice, long winter’s nap.

not the picture-perfect holiday. or was it? three things came to mind over the past 24 hours, with sleep and meal times completely scrambled.

  1. there is something beautiful about having a gap between the celebration of Christ’s birth and the ritual of giving gifts to one another. the old saying rings especially true – at what other birthday party but one for Jesus would we give the gifts to the guests? not being caught up in the hustle and bustle of last-minute mall shopping allowed us to enjoy a relaxed time of reflecting on the true significance of Emmanuel, God with us, entering our world to bring peace on earth. it’s really not about the gifts. talking to and spending time with my family (as many as were in the country) was enough.
  2. i have gained a whole new appreciation for those who sacrifice family time to serve our cities and country. i’m thinking of first responders, emergency room personnel, the military, and anyone who is “on call” even on holidays. sure, all i did was sit and make sure the girls were safe as they slept, just like i’ve done all this month. but doing it on a holiday imbued it with a dignity i hadn’t realized before.
  3. there are many, including most of the kids at watkins mill, for whom Christmas and birthdays are not an occasion for excess. some have even said that shopping at wal-mart for clothes is bit of a luxury. but these youth see that the community, including several area churches, has not given up on them. in fact, several kids have said that this Christmas, or a birthday spent in the facility, has actually been one of their best. not because they’re locked up, duh. simply because people showed they care and they were celebrated in an environment of calm and safety.

may each of us remember that, no matter the season, it is not the giving or receiving of stuff that brings us hope. it is the fact that the Giver has bestowed the greatest Gift we could ever need.

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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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