What is your most treasured Christmas memory? What moment in the past seemed to capture perfectly the love and possibility that the holiday is intended to express? When did the shimmering gleam of a new light seem to fill your life? Was it a special gift you received? A special gift you gave? An unexpected snowfall? Or perhaps an exuberantly decorated palm tree?
I can remember childhood Christmases when a dollar seemed like a large amount to spend on a gift because I had very limited funds and a big family to buy for. Sure, the gifts themselves had no lasting significance, but the energy behind them did.
When my mother died and my siblings and I went through her things, we found a box jammed full of little blue bottles of “Evening in Paris” perfume, which could be purchased at Murphy’s Five & Dime for, as I remember, 89 cents or so in the 1950s and 1960s. One by one, each of her eight children would decide that this was the perfect gift; and year after year, Mom would swear on Christmas morning that it was exactly what she wanted most in the world. It was ghastly stuff, and of course she never wore it. But what moved us to both tears and laughter as we contemplated that box was that she had never thrown out a single bottle. She knew what it was, and she also knew what it meant.
My parents are both gone, and my brothers and sisters are scattered far and wide. But if I were to lose touch with the love—in both giving and receiving—that those little blue bottles represent, it would have nothing to do with life, or fate, or aging. It would simply mean that I’ve become distracted by other choices, and by the negative illusions that life throws at us. The love is always there.
The experience of Christmas—or Chanukah, Kwanzaa, winter solstice, or any other name we choose to give this annual appreciation of the interplay of light and shadow in our lives—is not limited to the surface of human dramas and concerns of which gifts are exchanged, families gather, trees are trimmed. I think that at its deepest level, it is a time in which our eternal spiritual nature remembers and appreciates the richness of our human experiences and the divinely creative purposes that underlie them all.
All the energies of Christmases past are still available to us today. They don’t depend on family, friends, money, weather, or decorations. They simply express the Presence and infinite love that is our one eternal identity.