As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered that Christmas is increasingly a rather bitter-sweet
proposition for many of us. For, as we gather to celebrate the holiday season as family and friends, we also
inevitably become poignantly aware of the growing number of loved ones who are missing from our midst. Each year, at this time, I tend to think a good deal about my own mother. Mom passed away on December 9, 2008; and I must confess that the holiday season has never been quite the same since she’s been gone.
You see, Mom was always kind of the heart of Christmas for our family.
Mom had this practice—it was a principle really—with regard to buying Christmas presents for the family. It was always the same: Pop would give Mom a budget, and she would do all the shopping. Mom was a generous soul and just loved to buy special presents for her family, and in fact, did so right up until the very last year of her life. And Mom’s Christmas Principle was that her budget would be divided evenly on everyone in the family.
In other words, everyone got the same amount of money spent on them for Christmas presents. In fact, we used chuckle a little lit bit because Mom was so devoted to her principle that she would parse out her Christmas funds almost down to the last penny; and it got to be a challenge sometimes to fit one’s Christmas list into her schematic. But, not to worry, if you came up a little short on ideas for your Christmas list, you’d get a little extra money in your stocking.
When grand kids came along, Mom’s Christmas Principle held true, albeit the budget was stretched a little thinner. And when Cathy got remarried to a fella with three grown boys of his own—each of whom subsequently got married a started having their own babies—everyone in the extended, and now blended, family got exactly the same consideration when it came to Christmas. Even those who couldn’t return in kind, which was pretty much all of us.
Indeed, as the years went by and our family kept growing, we all got just a bit less for Christmas; but, you know, nobody minded that fact one little bit. It truly didn’t matter how many presents we received or how much money was spent. And maybe we didn’t care because we all knew that we were being equally included, and equally loved.
Over the ensuing years, in her absence, I’ve come to realize that that was the real significance – and beauty – behind Mom’s Christmas Principle.
It was never about the gifts themselves, or how much money was spent. It was about the all-embracing, all-inclusive love and the unmerited grace that we all knew Mom’s Christmas Principle represented. One that I believe reflects the very Heart of the Christmas Spirit itself. For, it was her way of saying that she loved us all equally.
Indeed, while I used to think the whole thing a bit materialistic, I now believe that there was a rather grand theology behind Mom’s Christmas Principle all along. And, while he doesn’t shop and therefore hands out checks every year, Popa keeps the Spirit of Mom’s Christmas Principle alive in our family.
“For unto us a Child is born,” the prophet Isaiah proclaims, “Unto us a Son is given…” But the real power of Christmas isn’t that yet another human baby had come into the world. Babies are born every minute of everyday. Rather it was the truth that Infinite, Unmerited Love had been poured into that Wee Gift to God’s human family, so that now God’s Unlimited Grace is made equally available to each and to all of God’s children. For: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
God plays no favorites. Neither did Mom.
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace, and Goodwill toward All People.”