The Heart of Christmas

The fog settled in for the evening and a steady drizzle chilled my bones.  While driving a short way home after visiting a friend, I noticed the Christmas lights on neighbors’ houses were blurred, and their decorations were barely visible through the dense air.   In poor visibility, I navigated down the hills, past the lake, and toward my house. 

 Christmas will be difficult for many this year, especially if they are trying to weave their way through the blur of loss, grief, sadness, or troubles.  Those suffering desire to break through the darkness and clearly see the light of happiness once again.  However, sadly, many believe they never will.  It is as if the fog and foul weather will continue to dampen their lives and chill them to the bones.

Since Christmas Eve two years ago, the world has lost 5 million people to COVID alone.  And countless others have suffered the loss of a loved one through another illness or tragedy.  Death’s stings and hardships are part of our earthly journey, and they, unfortunately, will never go away.  However, sometimes even in our darkest hours, we can find a spark of light to help us heal and regain our hope.

When Christmas joy seems forever lost

Several of my friends have lost the loves of their lives this year.  We can sit and hold their hands, offering comfort and encouragement, but Christmas can be the most challenging time for those in the middle of grief.  They recall the past and the delight of sharing their special day with their partners, children, and friends.  Then, with stark realization, they understand their usual traditional holidays are over. The thought of Christmas being joyful again for them seems unfathomable. 

Yet, it is actually Christmas that brings the light, the healing, and the aide.  A baby lay in a manger on a clear evening long ago, who brought joy to the world and redeemed hope.  Even when we are in the middle of a struggle, it is this day to celebrate and be thankful.   

Jesus came into the world to save us.  He taught us about a merciful God who understands our suffering, heartaches, and doubt.  Christ showed us life goes beyond our days here. If we just believe in Him, we will again be reunited with those we lost.  When the Lord’s earthly 33-year tenure was over, He again explained to us through the Resurrection that He is with us through all our days, including those shrouded in haze and sorrow.

The true definition of Joy

I love Christmas, as you probably know by now.  I love all the hoopla, the Hallmark Channel, the decorations, and those sinful cookies.  But none of those things are the heart of Christmas.  The holiday festivities are not only about being with family, friends, or opening presents. In reality, Christmas is celebrating our Savior who gave those gifts to us in the first place.

For Heaven’s sake, it is His Birthday!  Even when we don’t feel quite up to life, he is entirely up to help us through it if we just ask.   That is why Christ is the heart of Christmas. He is the true definition of joy. There is nothing he would want more than to hand us the lamp to guide us through our dreadful and dreary days.

We travel to our churches, light candles on Christmas Eve, and wish each other a Merry Christmas.  Our personal traditions of these holidays are stamped in our memory forever.  We make sure our children visit Santa, hang their stockings, and be good so they will receive the toys they desire.

Heart of Christmas

During our busy, bustling Christmas holidays, Christ quietly remains in the wings. He waits for all children to come to Him to seek refuge from pain, hope for tomorrow, and be filled with love.  He watches and waits for us, yet we can overlook the very one who is the reason for our celebrations.

I have lost much in my life, struggled with depression, divorce, broken relationships, traumatic events, and dumb decisions.  I have sinned, and I have failed numerous times.  However, I have been blessed with enough faith in the little baby born on the first Christmas to sustain me always.  I know I can survive because He lives.  With clarity, I know that when the fog sets in, I will eventually find the light to navigate my way home.  

The heart of Christmas is the gift of joy God gave us all when his only child was born into our world and became our miracle.   

And the angel said, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  Luke 2:10. 

I wish you all a blessed and beautiful, hope-filled, safe, and joyful Christmas.

Mrs. Shirley Claus and her Elves

She is just under five feet tall with rosy cheeks that illuminate a pixie face.  Her smile can light up not only a room but a heart.   This Mrs. Claus does not reside in the North Pole because she dislikes, rather abhors, the cold.  No, this merry soul prefers palm trees, ocean breezes, and sand, not snow, between her little pink toes.

Mrs. Shirley traded Rudolph for a Cadillac years ago and prefers listening to Elvis on her radio rather than Christmas music.  At home, pink flamingos hang on her Christmas tree along with an array of mermaids, shells, plus tiny beach umbrellas and chairs.

If you gaze toward the sky when summer fades to fall, you might see Mrs. Shirley flying south with the birds.  You will recognize her by the sleigh, or rather the grocery cart trailing behind her.  You better wave, holler and wish her well because Mrs. Claus is always watching out for the ‘good’ in all of us.

All children belong to Mrs. Claus

I had the great fortune of meeting Mrs. Shirley years ago, and we became close friends.  I knew her to be a generous soul but didn’t recognize her lineage from the North Pole Santa Claus family until recently.   I guess kinfolks of Santa, or his wife, are not recognizable when they prefer to wear pink T-shirts instead of red coats or aqua flip flops instead of black boots.

Mrs. Shirley has children who refer to her as Grandma, but they may not be related by blood.  Like her kin, Mrs. Claus, Shirley views all children as hers.   I would become so confused speaking with Shirley about “her family” that I finally gave up and decided the whole world was related to her.

For over 20 years,  Grandma Shirley has gathered her brood during the Christmas season, loading them in the Caddy with its reindeer antlers adorning the roof.  They listen to Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” while driving to a local department store, yet they know there will be nothing blue about the day.

Stay away from the naughty list

Before pulling into the parking lot, Mrs. Claus discusses the rules of the day.  The smallest and newest member of the grandkid group, eyes widen as his Grandma Shirley explains what they will do once they are inside.

“Each of you will take your own sleigh, rather grocery cart, and we travel together toward the toy aisles.  No one is to ask for anything for themselves, and if you do, you will go on my naughty list very soon.” 

The small boy’s eyes now appear troubled.  “Son, you will have so much fun; you will not think about yourself, especially when I sprinkle you with my pixie dust!” 

He relaxes a bit yet remains focused as his Grandma Shirley continues, “You are to fill each cart with toys for both girls and boys of all ages.  If you have questions, ask me, for I know all about what my children love.”

The children form a line trailing one another with their carts and scan each shelf in every row.  Dropping toys in the carts with precision care as they begin to feel the effects of warmth and wonder from Grandma Claus’s pixie dust. 

“To know the joy of giving is a fundamental rule all children must learn.” She tells them each year to encourage them to “load more.”   “You will find this is the day you will remember as the years fly by.  You will not recall what you received every Christmas, but you will remember what you gave to others, and it will always warm your soul.”

The wide-eyed little boy looks up to her, “Grandma, can we do this next week?” Her rosy cheeks turn red as she giggles down the aisles, watching the pixie dust as it settles on the floor.

Teach the wonder of giving early

If we are blessed to be grandparents or just grand people who adore children, and we can share or spare a bit of money or time, let’s teach our little ones early the true meaning of giving and the immense joy it brings for all. 

At the end of Grandma Shirley’s big day, they all piled the toys in the back of the big Caddy and dropped them off at the Claus Family Bank, which was collecting Toys for Tots. 

The bank employees were accustomed to the scene unfolding before them.  As the children placed the gifts around the lobby, smiles began to illuminate faces throughout the bank as if magic had spread and the glow of Christmas shone brightly.

We all can become a Mrs. Claus if we take the time to teach our children and grandchildren the wonder of giving from the depth of our hearts to those who need to believe in the splendor of kindness.