When I look back at my life, I cannot say that any specific Christmas stands out as bad. It is true that some years passed and I may not have gotten everything I ever wanted; however, I cannot say that I ever had a Christmas that I wished had never happened. There was the year I got all of the wrestlers and ring – action figures as my son and I now refer to them- which provided countless hours of fun. One year, my grandfather – a valiantly religious man- bought me a plastic KISS guitar. It had the cover of Destroyer on it. I love it so much. I lost that guitar about three days later when I was beating it against the wall just like Paul Stanley. I blame OETA, as just a few days earlier they showed a video with a KISS concert and that was where I saw it. Their fault, not mine. When I was in the third grade, I got my first real stereo with studio headphones. I kept that stereo until I was sixteen and my parents bought me a Pioneer stereo for Christmas. I don’t remember all of the specs, but I do recall it was my first encounter with a six-disc changer. I had that stereo until shortly after I was married. In the end, Christmas growing up held many dear memories for me – memories that for my parents were dear as well, but for different reasons.
Every year, my parents watched me getting older and their time with me slipping away. I am not certain they understood that then, but I am confident I understand it now. Every year, Debbie and I watch as our kids become more and more self-reliant. Hannah with her babysitting, Nathan with sports, Rachel going to church earlier than all of the kids, Tavo learning to count. It all is moving so fast and to be honest it saddens me. Every year, I am reminded of the time I have missed with each passing year.
The recitals I just “couldn’t” make it.
The practices I had to miss because I was teaching.
Not jumping on a trampoline because I was too tired.
The vacation I stayed home to finish my schoolwork.
In any case, I am learning that time is the most precious investment I can make in my kids, because it is really all I have to offer. I can make provision, but provide nothing. I can grant them safety, but no hope. I can make promises, but fail to fulfill anyting promising. Time is essential.
Christmas is a season that reminds me I really need to give them more time. I need to be with them as their lives unfold. Christmas is about more than getting presents, it’s also about learning to see that presents come in various forms. Likewise, I have learned that is about “presence” more than anything else. If I can give them anything this year it is to treat this as a time that says nothing less than: “This could be our last Christmas together.”
This is not intended to be maudlin or a stab at melancholy. Instead, it is my feeble attempt to see things as they truly are. At best, we are vapors in this world, passing through as we seek to drink deep of God’s mystery. So as we take the moments of life seriiously and as we continue to celebrate the life that has been granted by the LIfe Giver, may we understand the value of memories. May we celebrate the season that seeks to disrupt our lives and shake us to our foundations. May we stop long enough to be present in what we are doing. May we not be overwhelmed by the way people fill their time, but celebrate that we get to. May we pray to be rid of our contempt and self-loathing – which is often the source of our disdain forf this season not lights, Santa, and commercialilsm. May we embrace the simplicity that exists in a baby being born in a manger that would bring about changes that even the hardest heart cannot deny.
But mostly, may we see that all we have is time and time keeps slipping away.