I'm told that as you get older, things start to change. You look at things a different way, appreciate more, think a little less haphazardly. While this sage advice has only just begun to ring true for me in certain areas of my life, one area in particular proves to be a shining example of how age effects our viewpoint. Christmas. I'm sure you've heard people say jokingly (but with an air of sincerity) that as you get older, the fun of Christmas starts to dwindle away...replaced with stressful gatherings, haunting receipts of your battered bank account, and the ticking of the clock trying to squeeze everything in before Christmas. It's not that these things aren't totally true. It's just that, in a year where I feel I've grown the most, made the most progress on my personal goals, Christmas has changed for me for the better.
Growing up, like any other kid, Christmas was it. Just the most magical time of year where I couldn't wait to open presents and get gifts for my parents and be off of school. I was rocking Christmas carols long before Thanksgiving and our tree was up immediately after turkey dinner. Every Christmas, even as young as four or five, I would cry. Why in the world? Because this time of year always just overwhelmed me with joy at how wonderful it was and also sadness knowing it was only once a year. I'd cry if my parents ran out of gifts before I did. But this year, I walk through my decorated house and notice that I don't feel the familiar surge of excitement I once got when glancing over at the tree surrounded with gifts. I'm just as likely to listen to my regular stations on the radio as I am to the Christmas playlist on my phone. And it's probably safe to say I won't be waking up at 2am this Christmas to open gifts. But does this mean the Christmas spirit has left me? Have I turned into the Grinch after all, just like everyone said would inevitably happen?
My answer is a resounding no. In fact, what I've gained this year is worth much more to me than any gift I've opened as a child. Things that I went through this year (overcoming horrible anxiety and panic disorder) have aged my inner monologue quite drastically, which in turn has changed how I feel this time of year. But instead of becoming bitter at the thought of how much money I'm spending or stressed over the amount of merry I'm supposed to making, I'm pleasantly shocked to find that I'm not missing the presents at all. Nor am I downtrodden that the daily activities of normal life are still marching on, right up to Christmas day. When I look at our tree with presents, that childlike excitement has been replaced with a warm feeling of how blessed my family is. When I'm getting ready for one of the countless gatherings I have to attend, I don't wonder what gift I'll be getting from so and so, but rather how lucky I am to have family and friends to share the holidays with. Warmer than any fire or cup of hot chocolate, the blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon me has become ever clearer, this year more than any. My age hasn't hardened me to the merriment of Christmastime, nor has it zapped me of my excitement. Rather, it has made me more aware of what I have: family, friends, food, a warm home, opportunity. To sound unapologetically corny, that is the best gift I didn't even ask for. As with many life lessons, I believe we each have to come to these realizations on our own and in our own time. You always hear "Jesus is the Reason for the Season". I know that's true, but the inevitable passing of time has been the greatest teacher in imparting that wisdom to me. Age has nothing to do with Christmas meaning less to a person. It is how you keep Christmas. And this year, I hope to keep it well past December 25th.
Here's hoping that you have at least one person in your life that gifts you with solace and comfort, one reason to keep Christmas in a new way as you get older. Merry Christmas!