A Christmas “What If”

A wise person posed an interesting “Christmas” question just the other day. “What if,” he pondered, “Scrooge had not woken up reformed? What if he remained a miser for all his days?” Perish the thought, am I right?? Who needs to dwell on that kind of downer thought? What a truly awful “what if” to ponder. However, once that question was put into my head, ponder it I did. And, as these things usually go, that pondering led me to other, decidedly un-jolly ponderings as well.

For, what if George Bailey could not be convinced that his life mattered? What if Ralphie’s dad had not purchased that coveted Red Rider BB Gun? What would have happened if Linus could not shed some light on the true meaning of Christmas for Charlie Brown? Or if Cindy Lou who had not woken up and had a fireside chat with the Grinch? What if, horror of horrors, Maureen O’ Hara and Natalie Wood could not be persuaded to have faith in the fact that Edmund Guen was Santa Claus? (And I think he just might be…every time I watch that movie!) These iconic Christmas moments, for some of us so imperative to the joy of the season…what would we do if each of them had not played out on the silver screen as perfectly as they did?

There’s a common element of magic to these stories; a theme that runs through whether expressly stated or just implied. That theme of course is having faith and truly believing. And it comes up in other, more modern classics as well. For isn’t it Christmas Spirit (a.k.a. Faith) that makes Santa’s sleigh fly in ELF? And who is to say that there is not a sprinkling of Christmas magic ( a.k.a. Believe) keeping little Kevin McAllister safe from those robbers in Home Alone and keeping Clark Griswold’s Christmas cheer going in Christmas Vacation? Over and over, all December long we are reminded to have faith, to believe, to embrace the magic of Christmas.

Perhaps no film can remind us of just how important it is to do that as well as The Polar Express does. With its somewhat melancholy message at the end, it alone of the Christmas “classics” comments on what truly happens to that Christmas magic when we grow up and grow old. As our film’s narrator and possessor of Santa’s bell tells us…

As years passed, it (the bell) fell silent for all of them…they could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me…as it does for all who truly believe…

It’s hard to hear that bell, isn’t it? It’s HARD to believe, HARD to have faith. We as adults know that..and it the world we live in, it gets harder all the same. And yet, here we are, just one week before Christmas Eve…

So, let us try, you and I, for this one week to strain to hear that bell, to find our faith, to believe in the season. My wish this Christmas for each of us is this:

May you never be too grown up to watch the skies on Christmas Eve. I know, for that one night, I’ll gaze upward…if only for a moment…and truly will believe!

 

Ms. Degnan will be taking a hiatus from her BLOG until after the New Year.  
 
Best wishes for a very merry Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year!

The Gift of the Magi

Every year, without fail, a certain re-telling of O’ Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” has the ability to bring me to tears. Always one of this English teacher’s favorite stories, it’s been told and retold on countless screens by many classic characters. I’ve seen Disney versions, BBC adaptations, sitcom spins…the story is everywhere. So, what version has me welling up? Well, the earliest one I can ever remember seeing, the one I saw long before I read the classic story…and it all took place on Sesame Street.

Just the other night, for the first time this season (although I will see it again!) I watched Bert sacrifice his paper clip collection for a soap dish for Rubber Ducky and Ernie turn over his beloved Ducky to procure a cigar box for Bert’s shiny paper clips. Small gifts, a soap dish and a cigar box…much smaller than O’ Henry’s hair combs and watch chain…but meaningful gifts. These gifts, even the youngest Sesame Street fan can tell you, would be just what Bert and Ernie want for Christmas! Those two pals don’t have much, you can tell that from looking at their tiny apartment, but each of them is willing to turn over what he loves best in order to make sure his dearest friend has a truly Merry Christmas. Now, because this is Sesame Street, it all works out in the end and neither is parted from his Ducky nor his paper clips. ( How you may ask? Go re-watch…Mr. Hooper’s gift to the two of them and their reaction is what truly gets me bawling!)

What sends rivers down my cheeks is how even a show aimed at the very young can get the message of what Christmas is truly all about across so very clearly. For we know, God did not give easily when He gave us His son on a long ago night in a stable. He gave from His heart, His most beloved gift, knowing what waited at Golgotha thirty three short years later. And yet, He gave…a gift of pure love, the kind of love only God can give us.

Now, centuries later, everyone from O’ Henry to Bert and Ernie remind us that, at this “most wonderful time of year” while all gifts bring joy (I am hoping the American Girl doll under the tree brings a truly delighted smile and a memory I will always treasure!), it’s the gifts that come with that sense of overwhelming love that are the ones to be treasured the most. And so, as you wrap and stack and label this season, ask yourself the same question I will be asking myself as I take on that never ending stack of wrapping. To whom am I the Magi? What gift, given out of pure love, do I bring to Christmas 2018? What of my heart am I giving this year?

And then, pause, reflect, and open your eyes with wonder. See the loving gift that a Magi in your life, be it large or small, tangible or intangible, has brought to your Christmas this year. Bless the Magi, the ones that travel into our hearts each Christmas season, the ones that O’Henry created, and most importantly, the ones so long ago who followed a Star…

See the Magi in your life…be the Magi in someone else’s… at Christmas and always, give with love.

Believe…If Only For A Moment

It’s December…the most magical month of the year. For all of us who can look back fondly on childhood memories of Christmases past, this time of year can call up memories of those days long ago, when we heard sleigh bells flying over rooftops, and reindeer hooves, and when milk and cookies were left out for, as my daughter has begun calling him just this year “the big man in red!” ( I think my dad taught her that phrase.) And what if we could all have a night, perhaps not as unsettling as Scrooge’s was, but a night when we were visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who would hold our hand and walk us down the candy cane lane of the Christmases of our childhood, where we could see ourselves opening our hearts desire when we were six and gathering hugs from beloved grandparents when we were eight, and curling up on our parents laps when we were two and just beginning to understand what Christmas was all about. How wonderful it would be to have an evening when we could recapture those long ago Christmas memories in all their glory and truly believe, just one more time, in Santa and in Rudolph and in all the childhood magic and wonder of Christmas.

Perhaps we can…if only for a moment. It’s challenging, I know…but it’s not impossible. It can be done in a few small but wonderful ways each Christmas season. We, as adults just have to seek out a bit of that childhood wonder and truly let it fill our hearts with the ability to believe wholeheartedly as we once did when we were small. Now, it’s not easy, because to truly believe means to give into the suspension of reality, to allow ourselves to let go of our disbelief, if only for a moment. Yes, yes, we KNOW that we buy the gifts, that we fill the stockings, that the chimney is not a passage for Jolly Old Saint Nicholas…but what if it was…just imagine…for a moment…what would that be like? How warm would your heart be, how happy would this month of December be, if you let yourself believe, truly believe in all the wonder and magic you believed in as a child, if only for a few moments?

I have to tell you; I did, on Thanksgiving Day…and I have felt happy and joyful ever since. I let my disbelief go, for just one moment…and went and saw Santa Claus through my little one’s eyes. I put away what I KNEW to be true and just let myself BELIEVE, for just one moment. And I have to tell you, it was pure magic…the kind that brought tears to my eyes and a flutter to my heart. For in December, if we all let our hearts feel the magic of Christmas the way our children feel it and if we see all the beauty and wonder of Christmas the way our children see it, then we are truly seeing the spirit of Christmas all around us.

And, to see the true spirit of Christmas, through the beauty and wonder of a child’s eyes, is, in my humble opinion, to see the love of God. And, that’s what the Christmas season is all about.

Happy December, everyone. Believe, believe, believe!