This time of year (for many) is about shopping, decorating, baking, and spending time with family and friends. There is something special about the spirit of Christmas in general; the way most people will go out of their way to help a stranger. They will open a door and say 'Merry Christmas', they will shovel a neighbor's driveway without telling them, they will drop a dollar or two in the Salvation Army red kettle, and hopefully remember the 'every other car' rule when sitting in traffic.
I've sat in church these last three weeks and talked about HOPE, PEACE, JOY (and next week, LOVE); the four candles of Advent. These are special messages that help us remember what is really important and get us over and through the difficult times. With all of the happiness and glad tidings that are present during December, many people continue to struggle (with finances, relationships, goals, and anxieties). We can be so caught up in the twinkling lights, the aroma of fresh baked cookies, and the festivities in general that we can easily overlook the simple signs. The person that is sitting alone at a gathering, struggling to feel social, because someone may not be with them this year. The person standing in the layaway line at the toy store literally counting out their quarters and dimes hoping to get their child that special gift for Christmas morning. The person that isn't decorating their house for the holiday, because they fear no one will be coming to visit them.
Try to see past the glitzy store displays, the over-the-top TV commercials that try to convince us that we simply can't live without a new Star Wars toy or a brand new phone, the general idea that new and shiny means bigger and better and we must have it or we've somehow failed.
Embrace the simple pleasures; the car ride through the neighborhoods to look at the lights, the impromptu snow ball fight because the snow is fresh and powdery, and the smile that tugs at our cheeks when a store Santa spots us from across the room and winks or waves to us (trust me, this happens every year and gets me every time).
Whether you are into the whole Santa Claus scene or not, take the time to enjoy the magic of the moment. There's something special about the Santa with an authentic beard, real wrinkles, and rosy cheeks. The one who has the friendly voice and the sparkle in his eye, that somehow just makes you feel better when you've had a difficult day or have a lot on your mind. I've seen a few Santas that were sub-par and had their beards dragging a little too low and needed to put a little weight on, but then there's that ONE that you run into somewhere that just makes the moment a little happier, leaves your shoulders sitting just a little lower, and leaves your heart feeling a little warmer. To those special Santas I take my hat off to you. Well done!
As we gear up for this final week before the big holiday let us all remember the real reason for the season, be a little nicer to one another, share what we have with others (whether we know them or not), and make each other proud.
I wish you an early Merry Christmas!