Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Keeping Christmas"

Today I read this piece by Henry Van Dyke. 
 Keeping Christmas

Henry Van Dyke
There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

Are you willing...
  • to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;
  • to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;
  • to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground;
  • to see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy;
  • to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;
  • to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness.
Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing...
  • to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
  • to remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old;
  • to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;
  • to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
  • to try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you;
  • to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you;
  • to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open—
Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing...
  • to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world—
  • stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death—
  • and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?
Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you can keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.

Now, if I am willing to consider those things a day... a week... each month... what does that look like? What should I do to put that into practice? Because believing and being willing require follow through, right? 

This really reminds me of my friend, Kay, who passed away this year. She lived this out every day. She got others talking about themselves and put out requests for the needs of others, but never mentioned herself. She was beautiful and quite humble. She served. Always. It seems that it never occurred to her to think about herself. She truly inspires me. I think I learned more in her passing than in the moments we shared giggling and chatting. It was only then that I realized who she really was.

So, I have today. To “keep Christmas” I am going to focus on serving without complaint... even in my heart.
I am going to guard my tongue and season my words with love. That's what people need... to be loved.
I am going to look for ways to go beyond to show others that I care.
I am going to use the gifts God has given to me to bless others.
I am going to pray often. Meaning as often as I can.
I am going to praise God for the incredible gifts he gives. The greatest gift. The simple daily gifts. Praise God!

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