Christmas was coming. There were so many things I had to do. And I wasn't looking forward to the yearly visit to my husband's grandmother. My husband and his family only saw her and her adult children from a second marriage at Christmas. Relations were strained. Everyone was uncomfortable. Usually there were arguments, and one year an uncle got drunk and hit his wife. My husband only went out of obligation. It was something I dreaded.
We always saw them the weekend before Christmas and all the bad feelings hung around over Christmas. I felt that Christmas would have been so much better if we could have skipped going there.
That day as I waited for my husband to pick me up after work, I was depressed about how things were looking. Every year I try to read through a little collection of writings on Christmas by Mary Baker Eddy that's called, What Christmas Means to Me. But that year I hadn't even started. Since I had the book with me, I decided that I could read some of it while I was waiting. I needed a better understanding of Christmas.
The book starts with "Christmas Morn," a poem by Mrs. Eddy. I read it over and over as I waited. As I thought about what the poem said I felt so comforted. "Dear Christ, forever here and near" reminded me that the Christ—the "gentle beam of living Love"—is always here, with everyone. No matter what happened during the visit, the Christ would be there—loving the whole family. I stopped being bothered about the visit. Whatever happened I knew I could be loving and not get drawn into feelings of anger or unhappiness. How I acted or reacted could be based on Love.
I also realized that I had been wanting a perfect Christmas. But Christmas isn't in activities or things. I understood that I carry Christmas within me—and that everyone else does, too. I had to be loving enough to pray and go to the Christmas visits, and also to bring love in my heart for the others. I also had to let love be present in everything I did—in all the Christmas activities, in the shopping and decorating, too.
This feeling of peace really helped me through that Christmas, and through the ones that followed.
Some visits to my husband's grandmother were better than others, but I'm grateful to say that there was no more violence.
Sometimes there are still moments at Christmas when I have to stop and remind myself that Christmas is not in what I'm physically doing, but what I'm feeling of the Christ's presence in my life. And when I remember that, I have the best Christmas ever.
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