The Unseen Gifts of Christmas

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Like many women, I try to do too much. My time is precious and I cram it full of loads of wonderful things. But this year, somewhere between putting up my artificial tree, shopping for cyber-specials, shipping off packages to the opposite ends of the country, going to holiday parties, trying to spend “quality” time with my daughter and, oh yeah, working two jobs, I realized I was quickly running out of reserves. In fact, I was exhausted. Wait a minute, I thought. This is not how I want to experience this season.

Little did I know I was on the road to burnout, when I attended a meditation session at church last weekend. Our adept leader guided us through only 20 minutes of inhaling and exhaling… counting to 6 each way. We followed out breath with energy all around our bodies. We were encouraged to “let go” of all that we were holding onto at that very moment and relax. Imagine…relaxing…and it worked!

There’s something about being fully in the moment and enjoying it just for what it is that brings a depth of meaning to any day, but especially the holidays. This is the season of incarnation… We celebrate Emmanuel, which means God-with-us. But that can easily get crowded out if, like me, you’re running, running, running to get ready.

I am reminded of a Christmas back when I was 11. My mother, who was newly divorced, committed to making our family Christmas celebration different that year. She rented a farmhouse for the week of Christmas about an hour away from where we lived. There was a bit of grumbling from my older sister and me since we wouldn’t be around friends over the holidays. Nevertheless, my mother, 3 sisters and I packed up the car with everything we would need, piled into our station wagon, and off we went. What I didn’t know was that this farmhouse had NO ELECTRICITY! That meant no watching TV and going to bed early, since we only had candlelight. Instead, we had quiet evenings playing board games or reading all together. We spent hours tromping through the snow outside, and ate simple but very yummy meals. On Christmas Eve, we gathered around the candlelit table, singing carols and thanking God for all that we had. The love and gratitude we felt was palpable.

Certainly a get-away like this is not an option for every family. But the thought is translatable. What if — just what if — we “unplugged,” even for a day, over the holidays? No electronics, just gathering with loved ones and listening to one another, perhaps playing games together.

We put all sorts of meaning on the things we “can” see, and it’s really the things we “can’t” see which last, and which really matter. What if we stopped… stopped and stayed quiet? What if we paid attention to our breath? Perhaps we would see Christmas angels in the faces of our loved ones, or see the light of the star of Bethlehem in our midst, or feel the gratitude of the gifts of the Magi.

Here’s to seeing all of the “unseen” gifts this year!

About the Author

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Reverend Shannon White is both a Presbyterian minister in Greenwich, Connecticut and an Emmy-nominated television journalist.  

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