For the last 25 years, I have celebrated a minimalist Christmas. I don’t set up a Christmas tree. I don’t put out any decorations. I buy a few presents, but don’t expect any in return. I don’t watch any Christmas specials. I don’t set up my native scene. My small plaster figurines of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the angels are safely wrapped up and tucked away in storage. I usually spend every Christmas alone.
I wasn’t raised this way. My mother loved Christmas. It was one of the few holidays she continued to celebrate even after her children were grown. Mom always decorated a Christmas tree using ornaments she had collected throughout the years. Most of the decorations consisted of cotton ball snowmen, clothes pin reindeers, and clay handprints Mom’s children made in elementary school. Mom always loved these awkward, lopsided, misshapen ornaments the most. Every year, Mom also set up a native scene, though she always had to stop my sisters and me from playing with the Jesus figure as if he was our very own baby doll. She would put vines of holly around every door and trays of candy on every table. Mom always said that Christmas is a time for miracles. That idea is the only tradition of Christmas that I carry with me from my childhood.
While so many people celebrate the holiday with the traditional tinsel and glimmer, Christmas for me is always a time of quiet reflection. I always spend Christmas day in prayer, meditation, contemplation, and silent worship of Christ. I want this one special day to be 100% God-focused. I don’t want presents, or trees, or wreaths to distract me from my communion with Christ. Even though I celebrate a modest holiday, it is continually filled with peace and elation. The feeling is so blissful, I always pledge every Christmas that I will make this joy last all year long. I’m always determined that I will continue to hold Jesus in my soul. I want to get to know Christ more; I want to carry him within my heart and not let minor things of this world bother me and cause me to lose my focus. I want to maintain Christmas joy for the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, this year, I didn’t even make it a week….
Christmas was on Sunday, December 25th, of course. For the next few days, I was happy, and peaceful. I felt grateful and blessed. All my good intentions, however, crashed down around me by Thursday, December 29. Yes, Thursday…just four days later!
That morning, I woke up at 2:30 to get to work by 4. I started the day off well. I said my daily prayers before I walked out the door. The drive to work in the morning darkness was enchanting and thought-provoking. I thought about life and God and everything in the universe. Twice that morning, on two separate occasions, two of my co-workers talked about God with me. To my surprise, they just randomly began to discuss God’s graciousness, his goodness, and his love for all of his children. Their conversation made me smile. Their words just enhanced the bliss I was already feeling.
A little later that morning, the computer I was using suddenly froze. I tried everything I could think of to get the computer running again. I turned it off and on; I punched control-alt-delete several times. All the quick fixes I could think of failed me. The computer remained frozen on a bright blue background with the computer logo flashing across the screen. I told myself not to panic. I took a deep breath and remembered that Archangel Michael was the angel to call on to fix appliances. So I placed both of my hands on the monitor and started to pray:’
“Archangel Michael, please help me. I have a lot of work I need to complete and the computer won’t work. I need your help to fix my computer so I can finish my assignments.”
Suddenly, I heard a beep and saw a flash out of the corner of my eye. In the midst of my prayer, the computer came flickering back to life. I thanked Archangel Michael for us assistance and was able to get all of my work done on time.
So, the day was going well with many opportunities to remain God-focused even during my hectic working day.
So why did I suddenly lose my faith that afternoon?
I had been working hard. I had multiple assignments and was doing my best to complete additional jobs for a few people who had called in sick. I thought I had followed all assignments correctly. I thought I was doing very well and remained in a state of grace…for a while…
Only when I believed I was being unfairly criticized by my supervisor for a miscommunication did my faith and my peace desert me. When I felt unnecessarily attacked in front of my peers, my focus suddenly shifted away from God. I had given into my ego. I had given into my fears. Why didn’t I just continue to trust in God and know that this moment would pass, too? Why didn’t I remind myself that God still loved me and he would not forsake me even when I felt humiliated and disrespected? Instead of just nodding my head and correcting the situation, I argued back that the directions I had been given were not clear. I demonstrated to my supervisor that I had done the work according to her plan. I continued defending myself by reminding her that I had checked in an hour ago to explain what I was doing with the assignment and my supervisor had told me I was correct.
But as I argued my point, I didn’t feel vindicated or victorious. I felt horrified, sad, and embarrassed by my behavior. I was ashamed of myself for not just letting the perceived injustice go. I responded to the stress of the moment with more stress. I responded to negativity with negativity. I made a bad situation worse.
For just that moment that Thursday afternoon after Christmas, I had slipped away from God. I remind myself that I am only human; I am by no means an angel. I am here on earth now to learn and to grow and to change and to better my soul the same way I must do in every lifetime. I just have to accept that there will be times when I will fall from grace, and I must keep the faith that God is still there for me even in those moments. I have to remember that God will always be by my side even when I am far from perfect.
I still feel angry with myself now that, for a brief moment, I lost sight of what was really important in this world. Now, I search for God once more. I open my heart and my soul again to accept Lord Jesus Christ. And I must remember even when I have my bad moments, I am still one of God’s children. I am one of his lesser angels…and he still loves me all the same…He will guide me to heaven even in those moments when I do not think I am worth the effort. He has come to save my soul from my own ego and insecurities….
In Christ, I am continually reborn….
And maybe, just maybe, that is the true meaning of Christmas.