Sunday, July 17, 2011

Christmas in July

Now, in the midst of the great heat wave of "11, I found myself wandering back in my memory only six months back as we awaited the arrival of Christmas.  Thanksgiving had already come and gone and the weather, in typical St. Louis style in December, couldn't make up its mind whether it was early October or January.

Everyone was busy making preparations for the big day.  There was shopping to be done, menus to be planned and executed, and last minute decorations to be added to what was already up for that perfect touch.  Christmas carols were being sung over and over again on all radio stations.  Some stations had actually been playing them since November 1st.  Nearly everyone was beginning to experience that holiday lift, a feeling of joy and festiveness that isn't felt at any other time of the year in this way.

There was the feeling of "its too bad we don't have this Christmas spirit year round!"  It is a spirit of good will towards all we meet.  We smile more easily during this run-up to the biggest day of the year.  Exhausted, there is a refreshing feel to everything we do because we knew that in only a few days we would be getting together with family and friends to celebrate the season often following long-standing traditions begun years ago.  Or maybe there was the added joy of a newborn coming into the family since the last Christmas.  There was, indeed, a magic feel to the air.

Then came the big day.  Christmas passed as swiftly as all days do, but for some reason, Christmas Day always seems to go a little faster.  The clock seems to have sped up some, leaving us to wonder just where time goes.  A sumptuous meal was enjoyed, gifts opened, all while we were cozily gathered in a warm home while outside the White Christmas we all had hoped for, had come.

Before we knew it, the day was over.  And we were all saying to ourselves, "where does the time go?"   Once again, as darkness falls and the reality of the hum drum day to day existence we all feel we lead comes to mind, we said to ourselves, "its too bad this spirit doesn't last throughout the year!"

Now that Christmas is but a distant memory and things like pools, camping trips, vacations, air conditioning, and heat indexes preoccupy our minds, my question to you is this:  What have you done to ensure that the Christmas spirit that you reveled in just six short months ago, is still alive?

I'm not talking about the presents or the meals.  I'm not talking about the wish for snow or a myriad of things that all of us anticipate in the Christmas season.  No, I am not talking about that.  What I am talking about is the joy that underlies all of the Christmas season.

It is joy, not presents, that accounts for the feeling of well-being during the days and weeks leading to that special day.  It is joy that prompts us to want to share time with friends and family, celebrating the season that initiated our salvation.  It is joy that brings us together around a table, some lavish, some sparse, to break bread together in honor of the Savior whose birth has brought about eternity for us.

The Spirit of Christmas should live in us all throughout the whole year.  That is obvious.  But it is difficult to bring it to day-to-day life because of our cares and concerns.  We live thinking about tomorrow, forgetting about today and the opportunity it brings to once again recapture the joy of God become man even a half a year away from that celebration.

Mention the fact that Christmas in only a few months off and you're liable to hear something like, "don't mention it.  It'll be hear too soon."  Yet, do we mean that?  I think most of us are reacting to the hustle and bustle that most of us fling ourselves into willingly, only to complain about it as we exhaust ourselves for all the wrong reasons.

Now, in July, is a great time to truly examine where our hearts are, apart from all the clamor of the season.  Do we really experience the joy of Christmas in our lives and live out that joy as though Christmas was only a few days off?  What relationships do we need to mend so that we can truly celebrate the joy of Christmas day in and day out.  What have we done for others just because we feel so blessed in our lives and it just seems like the right thing to do?

And what about God?  Where do we stand in our relationship with Him?  Do we celebrate His love and mercy in our lives every day?  Do we truly feel the warmth of His love just as we did when we gazed upon a manger scene under the tree or through a decorated store window?

Christmas in July!  It sounds like an advertising campaign, but if you think about it, it can be the perfect antidote to the dog days of summer when many of us become bored with life and feel somewhat empty as we pass through the seemingly endless days of oppressive heat and humidity.  But Christmas doesn't have to be limited to July.  We can have it in February, August, May, September, or any month of the year as long as we keep in mind the song of the angels on that night when Christ was born.  "Peace on Earth and to men of good will!"