I was listening today to the song, 'It's the most wonderful time of the year'. I love this Christmas song – it's one of my favourites just because it has such a feel good factor about it. However I am sitting in my flat, alone, and realising that for some, this is most definitely not the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is in your face for the whole of December, you can't avoid it. It's celebrated on all the radio stations, on all the T.V shows, and every town centre. I guess those for whom Christmas is hard or lonely will be reminded of their loneliness everywhere they go. I have always tried to remember that some people will not be having a Christmas like mine. When we were younger and Mum and Dad were CO's we often spent much of Christmas day at the Army helping out with the Christmas lunch for those who had nowhere else to go. On other occasions we had some people come and join our family for Christmas dinner at our house. This was very long ago now, and I don't remember that much about it. I hope that I was gracious about this and didn't moan too much. I hope I could appreciate that there were people who needed to be loved and cared for on that day more than ever. I hope I understood how blessed I was and I hope I was happy to share that blessing with those less fortunate. I honestly don't know if I was any of that. What I do know is that it is a long time since I have had to make sacrifices like that on Christmas Day. I hope one day I will be gracious enough to go and look for opportunities to do that again.
I once read a book called 'Second Choice' by Viv Thomas. The book was written to try to help Christians to understand that even when the world they live in, and the circumstances they have to face, are not their first choice, there can be untold blessing in that world. Take for instance my childhood Christmas days. It may be that having strangers at my families Christmas dinner was not my first choice, but there is something so special about giving. When I look back at those times, I think about those people and wonder whether spending their Christmas with us actually helped them to enjoy the day more. (It's possible – my brothers were much younger then and not half so annoying!!!!) I really hope so. If it did then even now, the blessing of that second choice for me lives on in the knowledge that my very small sacrifice gave someone else some happiness.
I find this a massive challenge in the situation I find myself in today. I often feel like I am living in a second choice world. I guess many will not have to read to far between the lines to know what I mean by that. I won't spell it out! Sometimes in the midst of living in a state of 'second choice' it is so hard to think that it can be of any benefit to you. Sometimes it feels that all it brings is unhappiness and discontent. Sometimes we don't even want to think about the fact that it might be better for us, or even that something good might come out of it, because we desperately want our first choice. I am trying to learn that if I sit and wallow in the fact that I am not living my first choice, (woe is me!!!), then I won't even get any blessing out of the second choice world, and neither will anyone else. I am a bit of an 'all or nothing' girl and so I often fail to realise that 'nothing' is not better than 'something' even if that something is not 'everything'. If a glass isn't full, it might as well be empty, forget this half full / half empty nonsense! I want to embrace the place I find myself in, so that I am able to use that to be a blessing to others, and maybe even find some happiness for myself. But embracing something when you can't see beforehand what benefits it might bring, is hard. Embracing something you have always wanted to avoid is hard. Embracing something when you know it is going to hurt, and hurt badly, is hard.
This sounds really depressing, and it's nearly Christmas so I don't want to end it on a sad note, so I will also say that I can't wait for Christmas. I love it. I love going carol singing with the youth on Christmas Eve. I love the raucous singing, the laughter, the friendship. I love seeing people I love as we go from house to house. I love Christmas day and being with my family. I love going to church and remembering who and what this time of year is actually all about. I love celebrating that on the day itself. I am going to love seeing Lee and Tracey and baby Oliver on Boxing Day, and will love having my Nan to stay for a few days. I will enjoy spending New Years Eve with my wonderful church friends, and bringing in the New Year with the people I love the most - including God!
Happy Christmas everyone.