This Christmas I had a particularly difficult time feeling inspired as I shopped for gifts for my family and friends. I generally tend to look for meaningful and personal gifts and try not to be too commercial about it. For the first time, I felt myself scrolling through the “best gifts” section of Amazon.com feeling like a total cop-out.
I did manage to find something for everyone I was shopping for, and I think, do pretty well in the meaningful and “I know you well enough to know what to get you” category, but it has never been such a struggle!
This Christmas has felt a little different and it seemed to not really take shape in my mind until much later than normal. I work in retail, so we had shipments of Christmas product in October. So I clearly had the idea of Christmas on my mind early, but maybe this was actually what contributed to my laissez-faire state of mind this December…
I could also say that my lack of enthusiastic consumerism comes from my faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and my desire to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not what is (or isnt) under the tree. But I don’t want my faith to be used as an excuse.
Another feeling that I haven’t been able to shake is the fact that this will be my first Christmas without my maternal Grandmother. I haven’t spent Christmas with her in maybe 5 years, but it really does feel different. Every time I set out to shop, I would think, oh! I need to get Grandma a gift to open at Mom’s on Christmas morning.
The last gift I send her was a pewter fig salt-and-pepper shaker set for Mothers Day, along with a heartfelt letter.
That pewter fig salt-and-pepper set now sit on the piano we inherited that my mother learned to play on. It was grandma’s too.
After Grandma passed, each of us chose a few things of hers to take to remember her. I chose a few things that I had memories of over the years, things I remembered her using, or things that were just “so Grandma.”
These items have been on my mind as I have struggled with how to display or use them in my home, as I have struggled to find meaningful gifts, and my thoughts have turned to what things in my home will be “so Melissa” to Griffin, to my family and to my future children and grandchildren.
What exactly makes something special to us? Why is the pewter salt-and-pepper shaker or the wooden bowl grandma served lemon drops in special? What is special to me right now? What will be special in ten years?
I was thinking about this a great deal as I took the time to shop in various stores around town….That wooden spoon is really cute! But, its from Walmart…. can it still be special if there are a thousand just like it? Or, gee I love that teapot, but its just a kitchen item, could it be special?
But maybe they can be. We don’t have to find something at a flea market or an art auction for it to be special. It doesn’t have to be one of a kind. It doesn’t have to be handed down to qualify as special.
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Our Christmas stockings are very special to me. I am grateful that Griffin allowed me to keep them as part of our family’s tradition. We had stockings like this growing up. They were all a little different in size, a slightly different colored red yarn since each one was made after a baby was born or a wedding happened. Mine had been a little on the orange side and mom’s had a burn mark for many years. The two we have now, Grandma made for me when we got married.
But Grandma made them. By hand. Without a pattern. In her last year, she finally had to write out a pattern for my mother to have so she could carry on the tradition. Just today, I learned that this tradition was actually started by Grandma. What a great gift she has given us. It was truly Grandma’s tradition, and now it is ours.
One of my favorite memories was when we would spend Christmas eve at my Uncle Mike’s house. He had the biggest house and the biggest heart (and the best food). We would all gather together, and all of the stockings would be hung on the fireplace. This wasn’t just my immediate family, this was my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and alllll my cousins (and a few first cousins, once removed). There was a particular year when there must have been 25 or 30 stockings on the fireplace. It was quite the sight to see.
My thoughts have also turned to Mary and Joseph as they journeyed trying to find a place for Mary to be delivered and they were not able to find any room at the inn. I wonder if Joseph was embarrassed, or if he felt bad that there was not a proper place for his wife to deliver the son of God; If he wished he could have changed the way she had to travel: far, on a donkey, uncomfortable from being so far along….
…and giving birth in such an unclean place. Did Joseph feel shame because he could not provide more for his wife and her child? Did he wish he had more than a manger to lay him in? Or did he marvel at the miracle of the birth of the Son of God? Did he marvel at the strength of Mary?
When we live in a day where babies are delivered in top-of-the-line hospitals, when births can be induced and our knowledge of birth and delivery has increased hundred-fold since Joseph watched Mary deliver, it is hard to comprehend their faith of giving birth in a lowly stable.
But we all cherish this story now. It is part of what makes the coming of the Son of God so humbling. He, the Son of God, was born in a stable and placed in a manger. And yet he was able to do amazing things, many miracles, and even die and rise again to save us all.
That night was not meaningful because it was the most expensive inn in Bethlehem or because they had the biggest room. It was because of who was there, and what He means to us now.
Something becomes special because it was part of someone’s life you loved. It becomes special when it reminds you of them. Or when it helps you remember who they were, or the memories you had with them. Or when it helps you understand them better.
When I look at the things that were special to my grandma, the things she took care of, the way she spent her time, I know her better.
When we think of what Jesus had, and what he didn’t cling to, we know that He is here to serve others. In Matthew 8:20 we see that “the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” He spent his life serving and teaching others and ultimately gave his life for all of us. The first and only description we have of his home was when he was born in that stable, in the humblest of ways, giving glory only to God.
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We gain meaning from those we love. I think I did alright with my gifts this year, despite my inner struggle. I hope I helped my family know that I love them and that I know them and that they are special to me. My Christmas is meaningful because I can reflect on the memories I have had with my family and friends.
We have “things” that are meaningful to us. Griffin and I have a few movies, a few spots we like to go to, and grapefruits that bring meaning to our relationship. That seems silly, but it is the memories and the love between us that make seemingly ordinary things and places bring a shiver to my skin and a quiver to my lip. Not because they are things, but because they remind me of him. And sometimes gifts are meaningful just because of who they come from.
I hope we can all have the right things around us this Christmas to remind us of love, of family, and of our Savior, Jesus Christ.