Christmas is the one time of the year I truly embrace with unashamed childlike excitement. The years may have flown by and brought me children, grandchildren, joy, sadness, successes and failures, big moments, laughter and tears, losses and gains. Yet, nothing has changed my love and excitement for Christmas. I delight in every aspect of the season. The music, the decorations, the food, family, shopping, gift giving, relationships, traditions, love…all in celebration of the good. Christmas for our family wasn’t about how much trouble Christmas was and how little or much we spent. It was about going to the trouble to show others the joy in sharing, caring, and of loving while spreading hope for the New Year. Mom cooked until she was fatigued. We siblings shopped until we dropped preparing gifts for the New Year. I wrapped until my fingers were taped together, and we decorated until the glitter became a permanent feature in our hair. The days were steeped in tradition, soaked in laughter and topped with joy.
This year, my childlike exuberance seems to be struggling with thoughts of an embattled world where virtues and vices, positive and negative are surfacing in conflict. The world seems to have a problem of identifying what is of lasting value – the tested teaching of Christ and all religions – that spells the role of love which can conquer the life threatening challenges facing humankind. The grown woman in me wants to see what the child in me believes…that there can be life without wars and crimes of hatred; that HOPE, that wonderful, beautiful, colorful and shiny HOPE which proclaims “peace on earth,” can become a reality.
At times like these I am reminded of my favorite story told by my grandmother who loved the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In a collection of short stories (A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys in 1852) adapted from Greek Mythology with a lesson to be learned, Hawthorne wrote my favorite of all: Pandora’s Box. In this adaptation, two children (Epimetheus and Pandora) are sent to this world and given a box to keep. The box, contents unknown, is sealed with a golden knot with instructions to never open. One day, in a moment of utter curiosity, Pandora breaks the golden seal and raises the lid. Out fly all the ugly troubles in the world today – envy, greed, sickness, hate, disease, sorrow, afflictions and pain. Pandora slams the lid shut, but it is too late. Except for one tiny, beautiful, colorful rainbow winged formation that hovers around gently and tells them she is made of tears and smiles and packed into the box, to make amends to the human race for that swarm of ugly troubles, which was destined to be let loose among them. She tells the children she will be here as long as there is life in the world. She says that there may come times, now and then, when they will think that she has vanished. But again, and again, when perhaps they least dream of it, they shall see the glimmer of her wings reflected in their hearts. She tells the dear children that something very good and beautiful is to be given to them in the hereafter! Even if it should never happen while they live on this earth they should trust in her promise, because her name is HOPE, and Hope makes all the difference in the world.
I realize that this world will never allow for perfect circumstances. Troubles are still flying about the world, and have increased in multitude, rather than lessened. They are ugly and most venomous. And as I grow and become more sensitive in my wisdom of years, I expect to feel their sting even more. But then that lovely and lightsome little figure of HOPE shines in my heart! What in the world would I do without her? Hope spiritualizes the earth; Hope makes it always new; and, even in the earth’s best and brightest days, Hope shows it to be only the shadow of an infinite bliss hereafter. Hope. It is one of the greatest treasures we can ever find for ourselves. And it is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give to others.
The world was somber before the first Christmas. Life was living without the hope of forgiveness, without the understanding of a loving God and without realizing that miracles can and do happen. Christmas brought us hope, salvation and genuine pure love wrapped in swaddling clothes lying on a bed of straw.
The wonderment of my childhood Christmases and the longing to keep it with me for as long as memory allows is an invitation written in my heart by the delicate hands of HOPE. This Christmas, may that lightsome shining figure of Hope be written in your hearts too.