It was the day before Christmas Eve and she was trying to finish up some last minute shopping at the mall. The kids tugged her towards the line to make requests from Santa. After a 25 minute wait, they were finally able to sit on his lap and tell him their dream gifts for the year. Mom smiled knowingly, as she had already wrapped most of those items. On the way out of the mall, they passed an elderly woman who was gently ringing a red-handled silver bell standing beside the Salvation Army donation pot. The kids begged for a couple of coins to drop in but she quipped, “We’ve spent all the money we are going to spend today!” They walked through the parking lot and got into their SUV. On the way home, she pulled through the drive-thru and ordered enough McNuggets, burgers, fries and cokes for the family. Once she was back on the road, her cell phone rang. It was her husband letting her know that he was on his way home but he would be a little late. She told him that she had already stopped to pick up dinner and asked if he would run by the grocery store to get some things that she had forgotten for their family Christmas Eve meal.
That evening, after tearing open their fast food meals and eating most of it, the kids begged to watch a DVD they had talked her into buying earlier that day. She sat down to wrap the gifts from the afternoon of shopping. The phone rang. It was someone from church they attended here and there reminding them of the candle-light Christmas Eve service they were having the next evening. She politely told them that Christmas Eve was a family night for them and with out-of-town family members coming as their guests, they wouldn’t be able to make it to church. The door-bell rang. It was a middle aged couple who were going door-to-door. A shelter in the city was running short on supplies and they explained how they were going to “nicer” neighborhoods asking for donations to make Christmas a little better for those who were hurting. The husband explained that he was already maxed out with charity between United Way at work and what he gave at church (he actually gave very little).
The next day, their house filled up with parents, siblings and cousins. Soft holiday music played and the aroma of ham and sweet potatoes filled the air. When it came time for the gift exchange, there were bursts of laughter from adults and squeals of delight from kids. Once the family left, all the left-over food put away and the wrapping paper and excess packaging in the trash, the parents reminded their kids that Santa was coming in the night so they’d better get ready for bed. It was a rare evening in that the kids actually seemed happy to go to bed.
In the morning, while they sat sipping coffee and smiling at the children, who were now playing with their prizes, the husband commented on how rewarding Christmas was this year. His wife smiled and nodded in agreement.
Off on a distant shelf, a ceramic manger scene sat in the shadows.
This is a story of how one family missed Christmas. But they weren’t alone. Those who actually understand what it is really about, and celebrate accordingly, are in the minority.
Will you miss Christmas this year? Or will Jesus be the focus?