Being from Selma, Alabama, I have always been intrigued by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have read his autobiography and other biographies, I’ve listened to his speeches and sermons, and I have done three presentations on Dr. King. Any person who makes an impact on the world in a way like King did is a hero of mine. His words and actions changed the course of history for the better, and the world has taken notice ever since.
I used to love Christmas. It was easily my favorite holiday of the year.
But I think something inside of me broke in the last few years. The music, which used to get me excited for cold weather and the slim potential of snow flurries, now just annoys me. I get bored and quickly change the radio station to something else whenever I hear Christmas music.
I don’t get excited about Christmas eve or Christmas day, other than thinking about all the great food I get to eat.
Instead, I just dread watching my favorite holiday continue to be warped again and again by our consumer driven culture. The advertisements pining away for our love and affection. The obligatory awkward interpersonal interactions at parties and get-togethers to exchange gifts. The ridiculous amount of money spent on presents.
The holiday I once loved now drains me if I let it.
I believe it has to do with my continually shifting perspective and focus.
When I was little, all I cared about was all the delicious food I was going to eat (that hasn’t changed), watching the TV specials (Claymation Rudolph and Frosty) and getting more presents than I knew what to do with.
It. Was. Awesome.
I reveled in it. I loved going to see my grandparents and eating cookies while watching “A Christmas Story” for the millionth time. I loved waking up at 6AM on Christmas morning and staring at the ceiling for eons until my parents woke up a couple hours later. I loved playing with my new toys and bragging about them to my friends and family.
I still enjoy watching “A Christmas Story” every year and eating cookies, but Christmas was always about the presents for me. One year before I had much common sense or any semblance of proper manners I remember asking my grandmother if she had only gotten me one present and being disappointed when she said yes. For some backstory, my grandmother has seven children of her own (of which my mom is one), and well over twenty grandchildren. My grandfather died when I was little and she has been buying Christmas gifts for each grandchild for as long as I can remember.
My grandma who goes out of her way to help people, who is active at her church and is one of the greatest encouragers I know, got walked on by little old me. My grandma does an incredible job of believing the best in others even when most people do not, so she continued to love me and let me know how thankful she was for me.
And I was so focused on making sure I got a lot of great presents that I lost all common decency. Instead of being thankful for what I had and what she had done to give me that one awesome gift, I walked all over her.
The focus of Christmas began to shift for me after that day. I was due for a Christmas change.
I would honestly be one hundred percent satisfied if I got zero presents for Christmas and was able to focus all of my energy on spending time with my family. Instead, I now relish sleeping in on Christmas morning. I can only eat so much because I am getting old and I can’t afford to get fat now. I don’t want to brag about the tools I got for Christmas because that is too grown up for me to really even comprehend.
Christmas has really shifted from being all about me to something I want to be about everyone else. If it were up to me, I would never get presents on Christmas. It is too tempting for me to fall back into old habits and to reverse my valuable Christmas change.
It makes me want to focus on what I get and what I didn’t get and what I want and need.
But, what I want to focus on is loving the people around me, serving them, blessing them and making them feel loved. And in doing so in a way that shows, even if just a little bit, how incredibly grateful I am that over 2,000 years ago a teacher was born that changed the world forever.
Without Him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be writing. I wouldn’t be a follower of Jesus. I wouldn’t feel the way I do about Christmas. I wouldn’t have experienced a Christmas change. Without Him, my grandmother would not have shown me the grace she did.
[box]I do not ever want Christmas to be about me again. I want it to be about others and how grateful I am for all that I have.[/box]
I never want my grandmother to question my gratitude. I want to make sure she knows how much I love her and how thankful I am that she raised seven incredible and unique children that I can now call my family along with a plethora of awesome cousins. I also want her to know how grateful I am for her continued support and encouragement throughout the years and how thankful I am to have her in my life.
In my mind, there is no better way to honor the birth of Jesus than by showing gratitude and striving to serve others, just like He taught us to and just like my grandmother does every day. I found my Christmas change.
We are in Colorado.
My sister and her husband are in Maryland.
My Parents are both in Georgia.
My inlaws are in Texas, Indiana and Alabama.
The rest of my family is in Tennessee and Virginia.