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Monday
Dec172012

Essentials

I was looking through a catalog for gift ideas when I got to the page called "Christmas Essentials". It had candy, and stocking stuffers and ornaments. I was taken aback by the claim that the contents of this page were essential. There are traditions that have shown up consistently at our house on the twenty fifth. Even in lean times, or years I was eight months pregnant I still rallied to decorate a tree, and scatter gifts beneath it. We have always filled stockings, which I made as each child was born. I find it funny that the baby who could once almost squeeze inside his stocking, which turned out to be the smallest, has since grown to over six feet tall. Now even his foot does not fit. It is easy to drown in expectations around Christmas. The s'posed tos loom larger than life when you go to the mall, or even the grocery store. You are supposed to have a house festooned with garlands, a table laden with cookies and fudge, hundreds of cards addressed and mailed, and a gift for every teacher and friend. This is hard to accomplish while you still go to work and wash clothes on a regular basis. Yet while many of these adornments are lovely, they are not essential. I do not actually have to send you this card. Your holiday will proceed adequately without it. Your sense of wonder will not be measurably diminished. But mine would. Sending cards is one thing that I will tighten my grip on, even as the candy thermometer gathers dust, and the stockings stay packed in a box. Because remembering you, and our connection, is more important than the strings of lights on my tree. Even as I write your name on the envelope, or hand it to you after church, I will think of you and what our relationship continues to mean to me. My love for you is essential. Four of our children are traveling home for Christmas. Two others made the trek for Thanksgiving. Getting here from California or Chicago is a lot of work. Yet something tugs on their hearts enough to wrestle with luggage, and long lines, and security checks, to wake up under our roof. This astounds me. The twins asleep in their bed will tumble out soon and traipse downstairs to crawl in my lap. The one playing video games, the one with autism, consciously chose to bring the computer to sit next to me. Another comes home today from Maryland where he went to visit his girlfriend. Connections, it turns out, are essential. If our son and his wife miss their connecting flight in Dallas, they will not be happy. They will be stranded. If we do not find a way to connect with our daughter in Ireland on Google Hang out I will probably cry. I can bear the distance from you, and from our children for days or months on end. But at Christmas I need to hold your name in my mouth as I write the address, or hold your gaze when you walk through the door. "Here you are. I missed you and I still love you." I can believe the illusion that this core desire to connect begins with me. Appearances do not suggest otherwise. But all I need to do is look to the top of my own tree to see where it comes from. The Lord could no longer bear the distance between Himself and the children who wandered as far as possible from His lap. So at great inconvenience God traveled through time and space, to wake up under our roof. "Here I am. I missed you and I still love you."