Friday, December 24, 2010
Packed away in the box that holds my Christmas decorations I have an old dog-eared copy of the 1976 Sears Christmas catalog.
The people at Sears called it the "Wish Book" - which is a very appropriate name given that there was no way my parents could afford half the stuff that was in there. As a child all I could do was "wish" when I poured over its pages.
Now, when I take it out at Christmas time and flip through its slick pages the images of Sunshine Family accessories, Johnny Bench catcher's mitts, and life-sized play kitchens bring back all the longings I once felt during Christmases past.
If only I had that doll. That baseball glove. That guitar with the flames painted on it...
Then I would be cool.
Then I would be happy.
Then I my life would be complete.
This craving for completeness didn't go away when I became an adult.
But the things I wished for could no longer be contained within the pages of the Sears catalog.
If only I had that job. That car. That house. That person whom I had fallen in love with...
Then I would be cool.
Then I would be happy.
Then my life would be complete.
Thankfully I no longer have much of a craving for "things" -
I don't have a longing for top-of-the line computer, a nicer car, or a closet full of designer clothes.
I don't even have a longing for a 5-bedroom house with granite counter tops or a $80K job with a pension plan.
And I don't envy those who have these things, or the pressure they must feel to obtain and maintain such things.
But I still have my longings.
For security. For health. For happiness. For wisdom. For compassion. For love.
These are the 'things' that top my Christmas list.
Because I am human, and it is a human failing to want more than we have.
But these things also top my Gratitude list.
Because they are already present in my life, in many forms.
So, this Christmas Eve, as I remember Christmases past when I was disappointed because I didn't get the gift I wanted, or couldn't spend the holiday with the person I wanted, or couldn't fathom entering yet another year not living the life that I wanted, I feel the need to move away from "wanting" and to instead focus on what I have already received.
I am thankful for my health.
For having the ability to heave myself out of bed every morning and move throughout the day relatively pain free. To be able to not just walk, but to run.
I am thankful for the home that I have.
For the roof over my head, for a warm bed to sleep in, and the food that sustains me.
And for the people and pets within it that make it a home.
I am thankful for the opportunities that I've been given to grow.
To get an education, to do work that I love, to minister to and with others as we do God's work in the world.
I am thankful for the love that has come into my life.
In the form of family, friends, lovers, mentors, and animal companions.
I am also thankful for all the disappointments and losses in my life that have left me broken, but enabled me to grow stronger in the broken places.
For lost jobs, missed opportunities, unrealized dreams and unrequited loves.
And I am thankful for the "conditions" that I have had to overcome in my life to move in the direction that God has called me to go.
For the cleft palate that I was born with and lived with for 16 years, that taught me what it is like to not have a voice.
For the debilitating shyness of my youth that taught me what it is like to live in fear.
For the depression of my teen years that taught me what it means to have no hope.
For the gender and sexual orientation issues that I wrestled with as a young adult, which taught me what it is like to live on the fringes of what society deems "normal."
For the broken pelvis that laid me up for 5 months as an adult and taught me what it is like to lose one's independence and to have to ask for help with even the most basic things.
Most of all, I am thankful for the experience of being human - with all the joy and pain, ecstasy and grief that comes along with it.
Isn't that what Christmas is really all about?
Celebrating God becoming human.
God becoming one of us.
God being born into a creature that is completely helpless and dependent upon the love and support of others to survive.
God experiencing what it means to be one of us, so that we may move closer to God, and trust that God understands our suffering and our rejoicing.
This is the gift that God has given us, and it is the gift that we open anew every Christmas Day.
We might not find it in the pages of the Sears Wish Book, or stare longingly at it through the glass of a shop window, but we desire it all the same.
We desire to be close to God.
We desire a God that knows what its like live in our skin.
We desire a God that so loves us SO MUCH that He/She is willing to become one of us, and live and die like one of us, to save us from destroying ourselves.
That is our desire, our wish, whether we know it or not.
So, Merry Christmas Eve.
Tomorrow, our greatest wish will come true.