Have you ever had the startling experience to look in the mirror and see that your features have morphed? That rather than seeing yourself, you find a much less appealing form? This year I did. Do you want to know what I saw? Warning: it wasn't pretty. It was a cross between Mr Scrooge and The Grinch. TRUE STORY. It/I was ugly. Now some people may argue that in their own charactery a certain fondness has enabled their features to be endearing and even loved. But let me say, if you find a mix of the two grossly messed with a faint resemblance of yourself, it isn't endearing or fanciful- it is simply frightening.
I saw the picture clearly this year, although the metamorphosis has been in process for years. The vision came as I was reviewing in my mind a conversation I had with a friend when I more or less said, "I hate Christmas." Then I proceeded to attempt to explain myself- which went over rather poorly. I realized, finally, that I have lost Christmas. Somewhere, somehow, and sometime the magical day from childhood died and what was left was a pity pot black hole of unfulfillment, pain, and loss of self. But I did find a little spark for Christmas still glowing under the ashes prompting me on a quest to find MY Christmas. Not someone else's Christmas- but a Christmas for Heather Kay. I wanted to take out The Grinch and Mr Scrooge and replace them with a bit of Tiny Tim.
The debate is- do I share how I lost Christmas? I am not proud of it. And the reasons will not incline hearts to melt with compassion. I come to the conclusion that the specifics of how I lost Christmas is not what is important- only the principle. I discovered Christmas- in it's purity as the celebration of the birth of the Savior is whole and complete in itself. Christmas can only be lost when the focus or heart settles on something other than Christ. Even if those things are good things-including family.
I started my journey/quest to find Christmas by reading "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Rather than thinking -oh isn't that nice and closing the book I let myself ponder; if all of the outward manifestations of Christmas were taken away- the gifts, the trees, the lights, the food... everything that "makes Christmas", would I still feel Christmas in my heart and sing and rejoice like the Whos in Whoville? Does Christmas live in my heart because of gratitude for the Savior with the gift of His life the only gift that truly matters? For Heather Kay- does Christmas not come from a store and really does mean something much more? I confess that self examination did not come freely and easily. I wish I could say that Tiny Tim was alive and well in my heart... but I only have to remember the heart that felt "I hate Christmas". I found that Christmas for me was not something much more.
Christmas had become a day where I was a guest observing others celebrate Christmas as their families grow while mine remains population 1 even after years and years of hoping and waiting. Christmas became a painful reminder of stagnation, unfulfilled dreams, longing for someone special to create memories with and for, my own family to give to, and feeling like I actually don't belong anywhere- more of an orphan. Then only to add insult to injury Christmas this year became the very symbol of division causing a loss of those very things I might have gained this year. This year, even finding Christ in Christmas was somewhat painful.
The good news is, I did it. I in fact found Christmas. My quest was not in vain. I will say that Christmas is a bit slippery and difficult to hold onto- but there were moments of complete arrival.
My journey's path lead me to a few key things. First was a dedication to fulfill a goal I had made of writing an essay about what Christmas means to me- which constantly drew my mind to the subject. Second was a ticket literally arriving at my doorstep for the Utah Chamber Artist's the night of the performance- the music was so powerful it managed to melt through the layers of ice and sing to my soul the song of redeeming love. Third was a decision to have my own Christmas- party of one -starting my own traditions. Fourth was the Christmas story in Third Nephi. "Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet. But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain." I felt the key part of The Christmas Story is the hope it brings for the fulfillment of all promises no matter how bleak and implausible. The celebration of the hope of all things lost, impossible, and painful being made right. And awe of the faith of those that believed in the revelations of God until the very end no matter what the consequences and sacrifice. This is the celebration and joy of Christmas. This is the something much more. This is the ultimate gift.
Of course the above paragraph is the cliff notes version of my journey to Christmas- but no one wants to sit through the whole thing- myself at the forefront. In the end all that matters is...
I found Christmas.
It is true that...
Christmas does not come from a store.
Christmas does not come from family. Christmas/Christ is about the one on one. The individual.
Christmas comes from the heart- it is faith, hope and charity.
I wish Christmas was present with me always but for now it comes to me in moments- and for now, that is enough.
The gifts of Christmas do not come from a store. They cannot be held or seen, they can only be felt. There is a quote from Les Miserables, "The realities of the soul, though not visible and palpable, are nonetheless realities." Christmas gifts are reality; they are forgiveness, hope, patience in waiting, trust in promises, seeing and believing with my heart, looking to the soul and worth of every child of God, and something to sacrifice for that is greater than yourself.
Another quote from Les Miserables which is a favorite of mine, "If you are leaving that sad place with hatred and anger against men, you deserve compassion; if you leave it with goodwill, gentleness, and peace you are better than any of us." Ever since I read that my lifelong goal has been to turn pain and trials into goodwill and peace. Not to be better than anyone- but to be a better human. Perhaps this year I have made gains on that goal. Turning a place of frustration and even pain into more that it was before. I do believe this transformation may need to be made every year- but I hope I have bushwhacked the trail well enough this year so next year it will be easier to find my way to Christmas.