What Christmas is really about
I wasn’t sure of the intersection. I was meeting my son in law, Jeff, for lunch. I slowed down to figure out how to get into the parking lot of the Olympic Restaurant and the impatient driver behind me laid down on his horn. I am a son of the Gentle South and I happen to believe that horns are meant to warn drivers, not express anger. For some reason, Christmas, the time we should all feel good and be kind to strangers seems to bring out the dragon in some of us.
Somehow, in the perfume, jewelry and car commercials, the Christmas special shows, the crazy Christmas drivers, we seem to forget what this season is really all about. I see the shameless ads from non-profit organizations who’s executives are paid a half million dollars showing homeless dogs while they play Silent night and my blood pressure rises.
It is true that it takes a few years to catch the real meaning of the season. My first glimpse of the real Christmas was when my dear Mama, with damp eyes, explained to me that the family just couldn’t afford a big Christmas during my thirteenth year. I learned a little more about Christmas when my Julie was little, I saw the excitement in her eyes, I was pricked with an understanding of how Mama and Daddy felt, that lean, thirteenth Christmas.
I learned a little more about Christmas a few years later. Julie was in school and had to write a paper on a kind and thoughtful act. She wrote about two Christmas incidents I’d forgotten. In one, she and I took a young mother home when her car stalled, the other, a trucker was stranded at Tommy’s Barbeque and she and I got him help that got him home for Christmas. When I read the paper after Julie brought it home, I learned that the charity of Christmas isn’t something you tell your kids, it’s something you show your kids.
During the ensuing years, I experienced other Christmas’s not so pleasant. I went through my Daddy’s last Christmas. Life left him slowly. His mind and body atrophied and he slowly went from being a vibrant opinionated man to a shriveled confused version of himself. It was tough to watch. During that time, I learned about love and devotion though, watching my Mama, taking care of him and never losing her faith, never faltering or questioning.
After Daddy died, I experienced Christmas from an understanding of the resiliency God put in us. I assumed that Mama would fade away after losing Daddy, but she came back, happy and strong and loving life. She did all the things she couldn’t while Daddy was sick. Christmas was joyous again. Mama reveled in her grandchildren; she cooked the things we loved to eat and basked in our praise. Her house was filled with family and friends. Mama beamed and I learned a new joy of Christmas.
Twelve years after losing Daddy, Mama was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I had the pleasure of teaching a class with her doctor, Dr. Sanders, a year or so back and I reminisced with him about how Mama reacted to the news. I was with her in the recovery room when Dr. Sanders came in and told me she didn’t have a bad gall bladder, she had cancer. When she came around, I was the one to tell her. She smiled her girlish grin and took my hand. She asked me if I was OK. She had no concern for herself; her concern was with me. She explained that she knew where she was going and she was ready to go. She declined treatment saying she wanted to live the rest of her time at home and not constantly going for treatments that would only buy a little more time. Dr. Sanders predicted three months. Mama took ten and was only really sick for ten days.
Last year, I learned more about Christmas. Cherie and I delivered meals on Christmas Morning to folks with less than us… a lot less than us. I went home with the realization that I and my family are truly blessed. Every person who reads this should do this at least once; Cherie and I are doing it again this year. But none of these are what Christmas is about.
Christmas isn’t about presents or the absence of presents. It isn’t about the food we love or being with family or friends. Christmas isn’t about decorations, new cars, perfume, of sweaters and it certainly isn’t about the Grinch. Christmas isn’t even about watching our grandchildren enjoying the wonder of the season with sparkles in their eyes or about taking care of the ones we love or even about doing nice things for strangers.
Christmas is about a love far greater than the love my Mama showed in being sad on my thirteenth Christmas, or the love I had for Julie as a sparkling red-haired three year old. Christmas is about the perfect love of our creator. When we celebrate Christmas, we should be celebrating the birth of the only perfect man ever to walk this Earth. A man so perfect and so filled with wisdom, love, and compassion for us, that he laid down his life so that my sweet Mama could honestly comfort me in the toughest moments in my life. A sacrifice that will allow me to say those same things to my daughters and grandkids and all those I love. That’s what Christmas is about and we all need forget about the other stuff, and spend a little time today thinking about it.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or offtheporchmedia.com