Writing a weekly column is a treat and a challenge at the same time. Sometimes the words just flow from my fingers as I type. Occasionally, I struggle to come up with something to write.
Christmas would seem to be an easy topic to write about until you have to write about it every year. Thinking that my columns must be similar year after year, I re-read the columns over the past decade. They were nothing alike.
This Christmas will also be unlike others in the past. My siblings are both enjoying Christmas with their four new grandchildren. My Mother is having Christmas with one of my nephews, obviously wanting to rock and cuddle one of her four new great-grandchildren.
As for my wife and me, this will be the first year that we have spent both Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day by ourselves. That is a result of childhood illnesses, sporting conflicts, and the ever-expanding family tree. We reminded ourselves that the celebration of major holidays is not limited to a single day.
Growing up, Christmas was always at our house. After our children came along, we celebrated with Mary Lou’s family in Dothan on Christmas Eve, our own children on Christmas morning, and with my family on Christmas Day. Chaos was the rule of those days.
Years later, Christmas moved to our house in Donalsonville. My brother and his family lived next door and it was convenient for the extended family to gather in South Georgia. Then all our children got married, Christmas dinner migrated to each of my sibling’s families as they expanded. Then our children all had children and holidays became even more complicated. After all, Christmas is for children.
Early in our marriage, my wife and I promised ourselves that we would not put pressure on our children around the holidays. We see them all year round and celebrate our family all along the way. Christmas is special, but it is not lessened when everyone cannot be together.
We will gather with our children prior to Christmas and with my mother the day after Christmas. We will enjoy a Christmas Eve service at our church before having dinner at The Depot.
We will enjoy Christmas dinner at Aricia with friends whose celebration with their own family will also occur before and after Christmas. What a great opportunity to share this day with friends.
Mary Lou and I might understandably be a bit sad that we will not be with our children and grandchildren on Christmas Day, but we have come to understand that is not the way it always works. We celebrate our time with family no matter when that might be.
No matter when we open presents with grandchildren and enjoy special meals together, Christmas is not about our physical presence with each other. Rather it is about our spiritual presence with the Lord whose birth we celebrate.
This year, after 45 years together, Mary Lou and I will be home for Christmas. Just the way we started. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to our extended family. May this time be special to one and all, no matter where you might be.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com