Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Happy Christmas Eve!
About 2 years ago, my sister converted to Islam. She was afraid to tell me, afraid of what I might say or think. I was taken back at first, but not shocked. After all, she married a Muslim and they were raising my nephews to follow Islam. Even though he never told her she had to convert, I knew she was always interested in learning more about Islam. She never felt pressured, and every year she had a Christmas tree in her living room - he even cooked Christmas dinner. Married for 8 years, together for 10, he loved her - no matter who she called God. And I love her the same way. When we stand before God on Judgment Day, we stand alone. Who we pray to is our choice and our choice alone. If Islam brings her peace, then I support her. I will love her no matter who she worships.
Riding with her to pick up Kyce from school yesterday, she pointed out all the pretty houses decorated with wreaths, lights and fake reindeer on front lawns. "Wait til you see the one on the next corner, it's REALLY pretty," she says excitedly. We then hear Johnny Gill's rendition of a popular Christmas carol on the radio and we sing along. She still seems to enjoy this time of year, even though it's not "her holiday" anymore. So I ask, "do you miss Christmas?"
After all, this is the same younger sister who would wait up at night with me on Christmas Eve, excited at the chance to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus. This is the same younger sister who would be giddy when she opened gift after gift on Christmas morning. One Christmas, we each received 4 Barbie Dolls - so my sister wound up with 8 because I didn't play with dolls. That was one of her favorite Christmases.
With so many memories to share, how could she NOT miss Christmas?
"No, not really...I don't really miss it," she says. I accept that. But then she continues, "If anything, I feel bad that you don't really have Christmas because you're at my house and there's no tree...I feel bad more that YOU don't have Christmas."
I think about that for a moment.
Yes, it would be nice to take my nephews to go see Santa at the mall and watch them sit on a creepy man's lap. Kyce LOVES all the lights and asks my mother, "Nana, are you having Christmas?" I'm not sure if he gets why he doesn't celebrate Christmas - he just knows there's a gazillion commercials on tv advertising toys, toys, toys and more toys. He knows something is going on. So yes, I'd love to see the excitement in his eyes as he bakes cookies for Santa. I'd love to help them compose letters to old St. Nick telling him what good boys they were. I would love to see them in a festive outfit in church, singing hymns and re-enacting Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus in a manger. But I will never share that with my nephews. Maybe I will with my best friends' children, but not with Kyce and Ibrahim.
Do I miss celebrating Christmas with my sister? Absolutely. But is the magic gone? No, not really. There is just something about Christmas Eve.
The first half of Christmas Eve is pure crazy with people rushing to finish their shopping, work or whatever has to be done before Christmas Day. But about the time the sun goes down, I begin to feel like it’s a holiday. Stores begin to close and a quiet peacefulness sets in. In this peace, I am reminded of what the holiday means.
Christmas means that Jesus was born for me. I am here because of His grace and mercy. It is because of Him that I am able to wake up every morning, with a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food to eat and blessings to share. It is because of Him that I am able to spend time with those I love. It is because He was born that I am saved. There is magic in that. Not just on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but EVERY day.
I don't need a tree or presents to remind me of the true meaning of Christmas. I don't need to see my nephews dressed up as reindeer, baking cookies for Santa or opening gifts to feel that "feeling." With the love of my family and friends, Christmas is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
However and wherever you celebrate this year, or even if you don’t celebrate at all, I hope that you find peace, hope and joy - and yes...magic.