By Dr. Arthur McClanahan
Christmas is an extraordinary time. A tide of emotions sweeps over us. The pace all around us is frenetic. The sights and sounds and smells have a way of transporting us into a time warp, maybe even like the famous “ghost of Christmas past.” It’s a landmark moment…every year!
It would be easy to get caught in the place of “tisk-tisking” the early big box store displays of giant inflatable Santas, snowmen, Christmas Disney characters on planes with real moving propellers, and the urgency to have thousands of lights attached to every possible place. It can be distressing to be bombarded by the constant flow of solicitations that overtax the storage capacity of our email inboxes…and imagine the stooped shoulders of our letter carriers and the suspensions of their little trucks as they have to haul and distribute catalog after catalog after catalog!
I’m transported, in my mind’s eye, to another time and place. I think of the Mr. Peanut pencil (that I still have!) that arrived “just in time” after I oh-so-carefully saved and sent in wrappers from Planter’s packages. I think of “Uncle” Stan, one of my parents’ cherished friends, who would dress up in a Santa suit, come knocking on our door, jingle his bells, and bellow “ho, ho, ho.” This little boy believed in Santa and a happy spirit of the time because of “Uncle” Stan’s kindly presence (note the word choice – presence, not presents, because he came to spread cheer and not hand out packages.) I think of the Lionel train that my Dad and I would set up under the tree and how it puffed “smoke” as it chugged around and around. The time with Pop was the greatest gift I could ever have!
And I think of dressing up in the white choir robe with the bow-like tabs and holding the candle ever so carefully in Mrs. Hornberger’s children’s choir for Christmas Eve at Garden City Community Church. We elementary school boys looked angelic (even if we were a bit more devilish in reality!)
My wish for all is that this time of 2016 could be a true time of peace. Around our globe it is not. War makes living in Syria desperate beyond description. Refugee crises worldwide are an unspeakable tragedy for millions of displaced persons. Closer to home we are more polarized and snarky with each other than almost any time I can remember. And the families of too many grieve because loved ones have died this year at the hand of shooters – on the streets of Chicago, Orlando, and even Urbandale and Des Moines.
I pray for reconciliation. I pray for moments when we will actually listen to each other and hear each other’s stories. I pray for a spirit of generosity for each of us, not that we would ring up large shopping tabs, but rather, that we will give of ourselves and what we have so that sisters and brothers, old and young, among us and around us, will know that we care by how we share.