That Famous After Christmas Question

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Before this season ends and the new year begins, I have a little story to tell you…

When I was a little girl in elementary school, I vividly remember the question that seemed to come up after every Christmas break …”What did you get for Christmas?”  I hated dreaded that question.  One teacher went so far as to have each student get up in front of the class –one at a time — and “share” what we got for Christmas.  If I could have crawled under the seat and avoided my turn, I would have.  I scrambled around in my brain to list anything and everything that might possibly be considered a “gift” I had received  (and I’m pretty sure there were gifts) so I could stand up proudly with the best of them!  However, when  compared to others in my class and the seemingly mile high pile of  gifts recounted as they happily stood to share  about their bounty, I felt like my Christmas was a bit small making  me feel somewhat inferior as well.

My Dad was a pastor with a very large family in a small southern town …translation:  we didn’t have a lot of money. But even with that status, I didn’t feel “as-poor-as” others nor were we truly poor so it always came as a shock to me how those in my class who seemed to be lacking financially could get so much more for Christmas than I did.  You see, children don’t understand how money is acquired–sometimes through credit– or spent by adults or the different priorities people base their buying decisions on so all I knew was that I was left with a “less-than-feeling” with  a side order of a pity-party.

To this day there is a Christmas sadness that seems to unwrap itself and float out of the box.  Maybe it’s expectations of that perfect, meaningful gift? Maybe it’s memories of that “less-than” feeling from elementary school?  Maybe there’s still comparisons going on subconsciously in my mind? Maybe it’s just an old ache that never healed quite right? Or a misunderstood loss?

Sometimes it’s worth figuring out your feelings so you can write a new narrative…a new memory marker with a better perspective.

The reality was–and still is–that I have a big, beautiful family and getting  together to eat roast, biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy  was about the best thing this side of Texas.  We were rich in what mattered most.  We would laugh and sing and enjoy good conversation but my mom and dad were from the era of practicality plus and big gifts and  bright lights with tinsel weren’t the norm for them.  They were minimalist before that even became “a thing”.

If the house got decorated at all,  it was most likely us kids who pulled out the table-top artificial silver tree out of the front living room coat closet–the one that never actually got used for coats– and put the sections together, completing the ensemble  with simple  blue ornaments.  The rest of the house would rarely know Christmas had arrived.

Now mind you, we were all about Jesus and the real reason for the season and there was much celebration over that. The church where my dad was  pastor would be all aglow for the season complete with special music and services and a special gift from my Dad to all who came–a brown bag full of fruit, nuts and candy.

Gifts from church members to our family often involved a cookie tin of homemade goodies and, of course, the inevitable fruit cake which only my Mom and Dad seemed to like. Food was always piled high in the kitchens of our small southern town since  I’m pretty sure it is the #1 love language.  Whatever the occasion, food was always the right answer — and lots of it!

Our family was no different.   Mama felt she had loved on everybody best by serving up a delicious, heaping plate of a home cooked meal …Mama in her apron and Daddy in his tie …and family filling in almost every corner of the kitchen/dining/den area.  Home. Family.

It wasn’t until later that I would find out why we didn’t do many presents.  So much of what you do flows out of what you’ve known and experienced growing up.

My Aunt Cindy tells me she and my Mom, along with their siblings, got  an orange, an apple and some candy for Christmas, while my Dad’s experience was drawing  a name and exchanging a gift with another family member.   Both families enjoyed family time and food together with a solid anchor of  worshiping and honoring Jesus for coming into the world  to be our Savior.

If you mix in the practical …the minimalist …the personalities … the backgrounds …the priorities in ministry of my mom and dad,  you would always end up with “simple – sans frills” .  And as the story is told, I would also later find out that when faced with a conflict, my parents chose the family gathered over the family scattered.  Needed perspective.

So I “wondered as I wandered out under the sky” how to rewrite this narrative “for poor on’ry people like … I” (as the song says).  Still wondering, I honestly didn’t know how to end this post until this morning …

And sitting down with Jesus and a good cup of coffee,  the Holy Spirit  had something to show me…

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor…”

(II Corinthians 8:9 – NIV)

And this …

“Why did Jesus–God’s very heart–become so poor?  …because He calls us to go the same way …to live even as He did.  His way means to leave everything and to sell everything, to become completely poor with Him.  Why all this? …He had to make Himself poor and low, otherwise He would not have been able to reach us — the very poorest and the very lowest.  …Jesus thus situates Himself  as the very poorest among the poor …all human pride was cast down , and all degradation was raised up. …Jesus came to this earth to bring God’s love to needy souls, to the lowliest people.”

Eberhard Arnold
(excerpts from the Christmas Meditations, When the Time Was Fulfilled)

And a new perspective emerged …

I wonder if my story was one of the Father situating me so I could have a little more of His heart.  May it be so!

Quote Credit:  Excerpts from the book:   When the Time Was Fulfilled, Christmas Meditations by Alfred Delp, Eberhard Arnold and Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt — Introduction by Charles E. Moore

Song credit:  “I Wonder as I Wander”, words and music collected by John Jacob Niles

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6 thoughts on “That Famous After Christmas Question

  1. Joy, what a beautiful story and journey of how God brings a new perspective on old memories. That’s why it’s so important for us to remember…..and remember well. Even those memories that bring sadness…..we need to “feel” them out so God can heal them.

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    • So true Marie. I love your words, “Remember well.” That takes some effort to talk to God and let Him remind you through a new lense sometime. And “feel them out so God can heal them” …yes! Thanks for your encouragement always! Happy New Year!!

      Liked by 1 person

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