“There ain’t no such thing as Santa Claus,” my father said, then paused. “Now take that tree back to the Christmas tree lot, and get a tree that will fit in our living room.”
“But dad!” I implored, “I negotiated a heck of a deal, and I don’t think they’ll take it back.”
He said, “I don’t care. Take it back, or you pay for it.”
I often wonder why I go through the same post Thanksgiving emotional cycle. It includes the joy of giddy anticipation, the overwhelming work which must be completed in three weeks, and the let down which comes after all the gifts are unwrapped. Kathy and I end each Christmas exhausted. We look at each other in a high-five way and say, “We made it through another one!”
So why can Christmas be such a challenge? I have been wrestling with this question for the last couple of weeks. I believe Christmas touches on three important areas in my life simultaneously. It is colored by my childhood, my past and present work life, and my relationship with God.
My Childhood and Christmas Past
Christmas was a really joyous time for me as a child. Every year my mother would take me to see Santa Claus at the Gimbels department store at Herald Square in New York City. It was a special trip which included a bus and a train ride. I loved this trip because I was with my mom and got to see all the toys any boy would ever want to own.
Then I got to sit on Santa Claus’ lap, and he asked me what I wanted for Christmas. It didn’t get better than this. He was always so jolly and nice. There weren’t many people in my life then who asked me what I wanted. He wasn’t real, but he sure was fun to hang with.
The house was always decorated so beautifully which added to the excitement of the big day. On Christmas Eve, my mom would cook a feast which we weren’t permitted to touch until we came home from midnight mass. We would all go to a beautiful service, except for my dad. He drove us to Mass, but only my mom and I would go into the church. I was always in a new Christmas outfit.
I remember the brown hues cast from all the candles, the scent of incense in the air, and the vibration in my chest from the grand pipe organ. We would sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Joy to the World” before ending with “Silent Night.” Christ our Savior is born, and then we went home.
We would eat the feast, and then, for some reason, a fight would break out. Something my mom did or didn’t do or maybe it was me or my sister. It was just never right for my dad for some reason. The excitement and anticipation were always decimated by the anger and wrath of the post Christmas Eve dinner. This is what I remember, and it leaves me with a sadness when I think about those days of Christmas past.
My Work and Christmas Work
I was in the software business all my adult life. All I know is the crush of closing business before year end. What made it even worse was in my first software business we sold to CPAs. The last chance for them to buy is December, because on January 1st they go into their cave called Tax Season.
In addition, we had to get our end-of-year updates for our payroll system completed and ship the tax preparation software. It was nuts! There was no time to even think about the joy of Christmas or the reason for the season.
The hours we worked in December left little time to be in the Christmas spirit. I remember Christmas being a day that unexpectedly arrived the moment the work was completed. Everyone was happy, and I was exhausted. My mood depended on whether or not we made our numbers for the year.
My work now includes meeting with people who are in the midst of their business crush. Squeezing in end of year board meetings. Reviewing the new year forecasts. Meeting with people who were traveling all year and now want to meet to talk about career plans and issues in their lives caused by being away from home. There is just so much to do before Christmas arrives.
My Faith and Christmas Present
Christmas is a reminder that God loved me so much that he sent his one and only son to this earth. The supernatural became natural. Jesus came to tell me about his father, my father, and to save me from certain death because of my sins. He came as my Messiah to die for me so I would be with him now and forever.
Jesus took away my addiction to alcohol. He brought Kathy and me together into a relationship with him as our Lord and King in our lives. Jesus made us into one flesh. He knitted our family together and saved our children for eternity. He put an end to me passing on the sins of my father and his father to the next generation. He made us all one with God.
The struggle for me on the run up to Christmas is to remember these miracles in my life. I can choose to remember my spiritual rebirth or allow Christmas past and my pressing business issues to steal this joy from my family and me.
But now I am in prayer to my Savior and Lord. He reminds me at this time each year, he came to save me from all this. To save me from myself, my past, my fleeting successes, and failures. From my regrets, guilt, and resentments.
This is his day. He came to make all things new again. This includes me, my family, my businesses, and my relationships. He came to this earth at this time to do this, and he did it in my life and your life.
This is the joy of Christmas. I am no longer in control. I gave myself and all I have to Jesus. It was his to start with, and I am no longer fighting him for it. I’m his and so are the results and my future.
My dad was right. There ain’t no such thing as Santa Claus…but Jesus Christ is real! Merry Christmas indeed!