This year will be remembered as the year we had pizza for Christmas dinner. Not just pizza - but reheated frozen pizza leftover from another meal.
Our family has never celebrated Christmas with a large Christmas dinner. We usually enjoy our morning and eat brunch either after we have opened presents - or when taking a break from the unwrapping festivities. The rest of the day is then spent enjoying our Christmas treasures: building legos or playing a new family game that arrived - while snacking on spinach dip, popcorn or Christmas cookies. I am always thankful that I have the time to spend with my family and not in the kitchen. This year I was glad to just lie on the couch.
The tradition of “no Christmas dinner” took on a new meaning and level of thankfulness as I slept most of Christmas afternoon. I am not one to be sick, but I acquired a bug that has knocked me out for about three days. When my youngest came over to the couch (because I was too stubborn to go to bed - I still wanted to be there to watch my children enjoy playing with their new toys/legos/games) and asked me what was for dinner, my first response was, “Pizza.” The look of sheer joy on his face was priceless.
Of course the only pizza we had was frozen leftover pizza from…well, I’m not sure when. But it was reheated and “delicious” according to my 7-year-old. Perhaps we have a new Christmas dinner tradition.
Every day we talk to and meet people and often have no idea what is going on in their lives. I heard a wonderful story that brought me to tears from a mom I know casually at our sons’ school.
This woman’s daughter was born December 8th, 2003, at 26 weeks. Because of her early arrival, the baby was in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) during the holidays. One day while visiting her newborn, there was an unsigned note attached to her chart that read, “We’re praying for you. We know how hard it is to have a sick baby at Christmastime.” It made this mother’s heart smile at a difficult time.
This little girl has grown into a healthy and vibrant 7-year-old, with no complications from being born at just 26 weeks. When I heard this, I said, “That is your own little Christmas miracle.” The mom agreed and continued with her story:
Each year on my daughter’s birthday, we go out and buy little gifts for the babies in the NICU at the hospital. Then we go visit with the outfits and leave notes that read, ‘We’re praying for you; we know how hard it is to have a sick baby during the holidays.’ It is my daughter’s favorite part of her birthday. Ask her; she’ll tell you all about it.
I was moved to tears when I heard this; proud of the little girl who spends her birthday making others happy and proud to know this mother who is instilling this wonderful gift of giving in her daughter.
We all face our challenges and we all find goodness during our times of need. I hope, like this mother, that we all reciprocate and be the goodness for others, during the holidays and year-round.
I recently met a new friend for coffee to plan a work/life/spiritual balance event for women. In the midst of our planning we discussed our own lives, as busy and hectic as they are (especially at this time of year). When I got home that afternoon my friend sent an email that read in part:
I so enjoyed seeing you and treasure the advice you gave from your mom. That will stick with me and help more than you could ever know. Please thank her for me (must meet her when she’s in Maryland sometime!)
I tried to think back to our conversation. As much as I truly enjoyed it, I could not remember exactly what piece of my mom’s advice I had shared with her. I admitted as much to my mom when I forwarded to her the note of thanks. And then two things dawned on me: 1) it did not matter to my mom what I had shared, I know she was just touched that I had shared something of her with my friend; and 2) I too treasure the advice my mom has shared with me. Clearly - because even though I couldn’t remember what I shared, I had valued it enough to pass it along. Perhaps it had become so ingrained in my thinking and way of living, that it was hard to separate my mom’s thoughts from my own.
During this holiday season, as we reflect upon what is most important in our lives, I am learning each day (and each year) how much I appreciate tradition. Whether it is a family decoration that is displayed every year, an advent wreath from my grandfather, or a piece of advice from my mom, I keep each close to my heart.
Advent is my favorite time of year. I love Christmas decorations, I love shopping for that perfect gift, I love the Christmas carols and the baking and the chaos of celebrating the joys of the season. But this year I realized something else, more than anything I love that Christmas is about Christ. This might seem like heavy religion for some, but all of the pageantry is just show without the true heart of the season.
I realized this on the first Sunday in Advent. We had decorated, trimmed the tree and begun baking Christmas cookies, but for some reason I did not feel spirited (and if you have seen our house- that is saying something…each room is decorated with lights, bows, nativities, santas…you name it!) Yet, when we sat down for breakfast on first Advent Sunday, read our first Advent reading and lit the first candle, I felt a sudden peace. I was grounded in the scripture reading. I relaxed while singing the hymn and I smiled as I watched my children take the morning prayer with reverence. It was Christmas time.
For all the decorating, baking, caroling and gift-giving we do, it was the simple act of sitting down, lighting a candle with my family and listening to the story of Christ’s birth that gave me the most joy as we begin this Christmas season. It was a wonderful reminder - at this wonderful time of year - to be thankful and to remember the true meaning of the decorating, baking and caroling: the great gift of God’s love.