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Christmas Detour

There was this stupid detour sign on the way to Christmas, and I followed it, knowing that there was an easier way around. So here I am, on a guilt trip, and drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, waiting for the light to change so I can get back on course.

It was expected, this detour, but my can-do attitude wanted to believe that I would be able to take that better route when the time came. I would see the sign in time, and make that switcheroo, avoiding the grief of a bad choice of direction. I mean, who wants to miss Christmas?

While I’m drumming my fingers, I’m also thinking of all the other people out in the dark of night, drumming their fingers on life’s steering wheel, and wondering if next Christmas will be easier.

I think of all the things that can bring sorrow and regret to Christmas as I hear the familiar, ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ playing on the car radio. How well I remember college days when I couldn’t get home for Christmas. I think of families split apart and how difficult it must be for the parents separated from their kids, and I wonder if that’s not when the dads really go off the deep end. I wonder how many jails are filled with broken generational promises. I think of all the widows and widowers.

We’re facing our first Christmas without my father-in-law. Watching my husband grieve through Thanksgiving was hard, and we never even spent Thanksgiving with his dad. But Christmas was Pop-Pop’s day. He was like a kid, with his collection of battery operated robotic Christmas characters, his very own Santa ho-ho-ho belly laugh, and candy in dishes all over the house.

In our house, we “celebrated” Christmas gift-giving early this year since one child had to have her expensive present early for a special event. None of us particularly feel like decorating. Strange how that in a year when we “opened” nicer presents than previous years, the emptiness of things has never been so apparent, (even though we’re grateful that we’re able to have needs and wants met.)

I have a feeling that this detour is going to teach me that I have the opportunity to see different scenery along the way, a new viewpoint from which to express my gratitude. Who knows? I might even meet a few fellow travelers who need my encouragement to make the most of their detour.

Why the guilt on this guilt trip? Because, in a time when I feel guilty over not decorating, or feeling festive, I also see the larger guilt. The guilt that the amazing gift of the Christ Child meant a Father lost his only son, knowing that not only would his son die for sins he didn’t commit, but that all of the babies in that town called Nazareth would be murdered simply to stop his sacrifice. Knowing that countless believers in a tiny babe have been martyred over the centuries, ensuring that the only story worth hearing continues to be told. In a world gone mad with greed, sin and selfishness, only Christ’s sacrifice makes sense as the reason for and the answer to the incomprehensible.

Maybe my detour to Christmas is taking me closer to the true Spirit of Christ than any Christmas past. For what is Christmas, other than the mystery of the heart of sacrifice, of a gift that has cost more than any of us will ever fathom.

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