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Happy Birthday Jesus!

Ohhhh boy. It’s Christmas. Cheesy music. The dread of small talk at holiday parties. Shopping mall zoos. People that insist on embellishing all their clothing items and small pets with bells. The anxiety of finding a gift for my mother who always insists she wants nothing. The extra 27 or so pounds I gain from cookies and tamales and icing and egg nog and sprinkles. My head is spinning.

I have a small family and Christmas is not the center of our universe. I think it’s been more of a chore than anything. I got in a conversation about how Christmas is with my family a few days ago. I quickly spit out that mine didn’t really have any traditions or anything. That’s a lie. First off, my mother makes the most perfect tamale in the world. For Christmas each year, she makes hundreds and people bug her all year long just to get two or three at the end of the year. Ahh… the tamales parties. Another thing I look forward to most is my dad’s subtle yet very effective holiday mischief. Mom has a vintage set of figurines that spell out NOEL. I’ll never forget the first time my dad rearranged them to read LEON above the fireplace. Simply perfect. Old Christmas music on vinyl. The feeling of getting a Christmas card in the mail and for just a moment not knowing who it’s from. The string of lights along the house that send sprinkled beams of light along the windowsill of the pitch-black bedroom I spent my childhood in. The blazing fireplace and the way it flushes my cheeks. The nativity set my mom has that somehow has two Mary’s and tree top angel that I coloured awful makeup on as a kid. Dad’s philosophy on gravy. Oh, and the bell on the back of the front door that always got me caught sneaking in after curfiew. Between my mother’s excitement in decorating the Christmas tree and dragging my dad from the TV room to see it when it’s finished, that moment where we’re all standing around to admire it in the living room is enough to make the whole Christmas season for me. My family’s holiday season is simple, but gold. Each December I watch “A Christmas Story” at least 34 times, and at least once every year, there is that cashier who looks me square in the eye and says “Merry Christmas,” and really means it. You know, I’m not even ashamed to say that Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas” album is probably my favourite holiday record of all time.

I’ve never seen snow on Christmas day, except for in the movies, and I haven’t been caroling since I was a kid, but this year when we unpack those Christmas ornaments that are as old as I am and it’s like I’m seeing them for the first time, I’m going to remember Christmas for more than glitz, spray-on window snow, and fat men in chimneys. This Christmas will be a celebration of the best gift ever. One I received a loooonnnng time ago, but only now just sifted through the blindingly glittered wrapping papers, mounds of tissue paper and garlands and Christmas lights, to see it.  The very first Christmas was the most beautiful and glowing of them all merely because of the presence of Jesus. There weren’t bows on every one of his fingers and toes. He didn’t have a diaper embellished with a golden “J” on it (thanks for that, Sean). There weren’t mulling spices filling the air, and there likely wasn’t a tree with $25.00 ornaments on it. Christ was in a simple cloth, probably surrounded by hay and animal business. The stable wasn’t illuminated by strands of blinking lights, but rather by the stars in the sky alone. Christ came to this earth humbly. He lived His entire life for God’s glory in every action and every word and he died so that I could be saved. So that I could be saved. I don’t even know how to process that, but I believe it. I don’t know about you but knowing He loved us that much makes me want to live in the same way Jesus did. It makes me want to take the time to love on my friends a little more. It makes me want to spend more time with my mom as she makes exorbitant amounts of tamales or even just sit with my dad silently and watch NASCAR. It makes me want to go out of my comfort zone to look someone else right in the eye and wish them Merry Christmas from deep inside my heart, or spend the time on freezing nights with people in more difficult circumstances just to show them there are people who care about and love them. I want to love others the way God has loved me, not just at Christmastime, but all year… the people who blast Christmas music, the people with the chinking bells all over their clothes, my mom and the people at the mall when I’m looking for that impossible present, my pops when he pretends he doesn’t like Christmas… This is the first year I’ve actually turned Christmas music on the radio on my own accord. It’s the first time I’ve sung along! This is the first time I’ve seen Christmas for what it really is… the oldest birthday party ever!

Happy Birthday Jesus! :)

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