Christmas holds many different feelings for each individual. For many of you, it’s frosted window panes, decadent desserts, ornately wrapped presents, and Karen Carpenter’s velvety voice effortlessly singing, “Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…”
For others, it’s the one burned out light bulb that graces the front of the lopsided artificial tree, maxed out credit cards, and a Christmas dinner that contains a fruitcake on the table and fruitcakes around the table.
For me, it’s somewhere in between – various snapshots of memories over a span of many decades.
PICTURES OF THE PAST
Christmas 1977: My sister had asked for Elton’s John’s Greatest Hits II. To ensure my mother purchased the right album, on several occasions my sister explained that Elton John played piano and wore wire framed glasses. On Christmas morning, my sister anxiously ripped open the package, longing to hear Bennie and Jets. Imagine her surprise when she opened John Denver’s Greatest Hits Volume 2. Instead of Philadelphia Freedom, we jammed to Thank God I’m a Country Boy. To this day, my mother stands her ground, claiming John Denver also played piano and wore wire framed glasses.
Christmas 1988: My brother was finishing up graduate school. His intense schedule, coupled with the fact that he’s a guy, made it difficult for him to Christmas shop, so he purchased everyone’s gift from Sam’s Club. While I can’t recollect what he gave my dad or my sister, I vividly remember my mother opening up a 40 count package of Lance Toasted Peanut Butter Crackers while I gasped with delight as I unwrapped a gallon of Final Net Hair Spray.
Christmas 1999: A vacant chair at our table and a huge emptiness in our hearts. It was 5 months after we buried my dad. No children laughing, no people passing and meeting smile after smile – just family members trying to survive.
Christmas 2001: First Christmas as Mrs. Ron Florence. My turtle dove and I created a tradition that Ron and I still honor and anxiously await 364 days a year – Christmas breakfast at The Waffle House. Seated at a romantic table for two, we listen to the waitresses singing the Carol of the Hashbrowns – scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked.
THE COMMON THREAD
Each of the above snapshots shares a common thread: authenticity. While our Christmas celebrations will never be featured in Southern Living or Ideals magazine, it’s a celebration straight from our hearts – real, genuine, and raw. No unrealistic expectations, no keeping up with the Joneses – just unadulterated, authentic living.
Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
MY PRAYER FOR YOU
My prayer for each of us is that we will not conform to the pattern of this world – the pattern of unrealistic expectations, the patter of running in the retail rat race, and the pattern of commercializing a season that is so beautiful. My prayer is that Christmas will be filled with authenticity – true and genuine moments. Moments of meaningful conversations where we share and listen. Moments of self-examination where we bury hard feelings and give birth to forgiveness. Moments of striving to be like Christ as we serve others. Moments of pure joy and laughter – where we say goodbye to those unrealistic expectations and accept and embrace our imperfections.
Whether your family resembles The Cleavers or The Griswolds; whether your table is decorated with Lenox china or leg lamps; or whether your house is filled with the sounds of Karen Carpenter, John Denver, or The Waffle House Waitresses, I pray you will embrace the song and sing along.