Sunday, December 22, 2013
Christmas; Love Flows Like A River
"Christmas; Love Flows Like A River"
I suppose we all have our own unique ways to celebrate and honor Christmas. It's undoubtedly how we grew up with Christmas and the many traditions our families chose to follow.
Christmas has always proven to be a season of magic for me. I have always been drawn by the teachings of Jesus. When I was a child I was often lost with the Old Testament. When I chose to open our family bible I inevitably turned to the New Testament. Our family bible had all of Jesus' messages printed in red. In every reading His words fell into my soul like a gentle rain; they spoke for empathy, sympathy, forgiveness and the rewards for giving love.
"I bring you tidings of great joy"....the words in the verses that tell of His coming speak with an eloquence that denotes hope and renewal and of promises of a better world. One need not need believe in Eden, or Job or the 800 year old men of the Old Testament, to believe in a man who lived only 33 years, but who offered unconditional love to the lost, the sick, and the desperate.
So I have chosen to find incredible the stories of Red Sea partings and a Garden of Eden, written in a Middle East tongue and unreliably translated numerous times. Instead, I rely on a code of moral behavior espoused by Jesus, who walked this earth for a terribly brief period, a code that sits well in that place deep in my heart that knows intuitively what is moral and what is right.
Thus, Christmas remains, for me, a magical season; a season when even today's frantic commercialism cannot dull the hope and love and promise this man bestowed to a world so sorely in need of them. Even in today's cynical world the human heart softens and turns an outward step toward others. The hard shell formed by the life experience is made vulnerable by a message delivered some 2,000 years ago by an itinerant messenger.
The magic of all my Christmases has always been enhanced by my own Christmas experiences. I have now known 63 of them and all have been special in their own way. If there is one common denominator it would be that Christmas love is like a river. It flows uninterrupted throughout the years, the river refreshed by the love I received unconditionally throughout the years....and that very love has been passed on to others, by me, and by all of those who came before me.
My first opportunity as an "adult" to "pay it forward" was during my second Christmas in Vietnam. The woman who would later be my wife, lived in Saigon and had a large family. Seeking to find my own Christmas while away from family, I decided to buy presents for this family. I found a toy store and carefully selected gifts for the children, gifts which they otherwise would not receive, since their meager Christmas would be a Christmas mass at the church and a modest dinner.
When I arrived with gifts in the family's modest home I was greeted with the expected glee that children around the world display at the idea of receiving gifts. In giving to them I was able to give so much more to myself; the joy of giving.
Though I didn't realize it then, I later came to know that my giving that Christmas was born from the heart and grace of my own family who had shown me that love and the joy of Christmas is so very special.
And so, at a time when I was lonely, at a time when I missed my own family so dearly, I was able to salvage Christmas simply by allowing that enduring "river of love" to flow freely to people my family had never met, on the other side of the world.
My experience was not unique. Each of us, when we reach out to give the gift of ourselves to others, whether it is our friends, our children...or the needy...we are simply refreshing that river of love that flows unendingly throughout our lives.