“It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times…”


In his book entitled “The Tale Of Two Cities”,  Charles Dickens describes life leading up to the French Revolution. He expresses the mindset of the population this way: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”


When it comes to Christmas 2016, even in the smallest of groups, perceptions and expectations related to the holidays vary radically. Some would say it is the best of times. Others would stop well short of that kind of affirmation.


For many, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. I love the reason for the season, but the hoopla and barrage of things to do, events to attend, gifts to select, packages to wrap and lines at the post office to get things mailed in the nick of time can be stressful. I can’t say that I’m personally inundated with an overabundance of stress related to any of the activities I’ve mentioned because the General voluntarily handles the shopping.  She operates on the premises: “If you want it done right, do it yourself”. I’m not offended by her perception that I’ll mess it up. I’m grateful she’s willing to invest the time and ensure it gets done.


But sometimes her preoccupation with balancing the tasks makes me a little crazy. She obsesses over finding exactly what the grandkids have identified they want on the lists of suggested gifts they’ve submitted at her request. She’s a lot like my mother; Christmas is a big deal to her because of the presents she’s selected for the grandchildren. This year, one of the gifts that Jake asked for is no longer being made. Now the fear that he’ll be disappointed that she didn’t get everything on his list is putting gray in her hair and making me pull out mine.


Okay, truth be told, it makes me very crazy. For example, in looking at Christmas gift expenditures for grandchildren (i.e.: Jenna, Lilian, William and Jake), the General was horrified to discover she spent $8 more for one grandchild than she did for each of the other three. So her question was this: “Should I include $8 in a Christmas card for each  and include it in one of their packages?”


I assured her if I saw any grandchild with a calculator tallying what she’d spent on their gifts in relation to the others, I’d either tell them we liked the other kid better or that they were off the list for next year. She didn’t think my attempt at humor was funny; however, I thought it was clever.


I’ve walked through the mall a couple of times to look for that something special for the General, but I didn’t see anything she’d want. That, too, is my fault. I purposefully didn’t go into a jewelry store or anywhere near Williams Sonoma.   Historically, in recent years we’ve purchased something for the house as a joint gift for the two of us. This year the General took the initiative of having our yard professionally landscaped a couple of months ago. Now we’ve got rocks in the yard – river rocks and lots of them. How many tons – I don’t remember. How many dollars – I didn’t ask. However, we’ve agreed that the rocks in the yard represent our Christmas gift for the two of us.


Somewhere in the resources of my memory, I remember being threatened with receiving a box of rocks for Christmas. If fact, there is a Christmas song that includes the lyrics:


Santa bring my brother a big ol’ box of rocks

I’ve been good the whole year but he’s been bad alots

He’s gonna be so sorry when he sees that’s all he gots

Santa bring my brother a big ol’ box of rocks…”


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” is often reflective of what we allow Christmas to represent in our lives. Some of you are absolutely obvious to the fact that Christmas could represent anything other than the most wonderful time of the year. For you it represents shared time with family and friends and you have nothing but the highest of expectations for going home for the holidays. You’ll be energized and grateful for the time-shared. You’ll also discover that it goes by all too quickly.


Sadly, others of you will feel like you’ve been cast as a participant in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. All you have to do to play the part is to “go home” for Christmas. It won’t take long to find yourselves surrounded by a litany of family members who gather out of a sense of obligation rather than anticipation of the joy associated to Christmas.


You may even find yourself in the presence of a family member or two who are less that civil to one another. The bickering and backbiting will provide a perpetual backdrop that creates a high level of stress. The one thing you can count on is that you’ll be walking around on pins and needles. You may even consider doing something uncharacteristic like adding something extra to the eggnog. You’ll be counting off the days on the calendar wanting the time at home to end. “Just let me get out of here and maintain my sanity” is your hourly prayer.


Hopefully, no one will have a cousin named Catherine and her husband, named Eddie, who will show up uninvited with their children named Rocky and Ruby Sue and their Rottweiler dog named Snots. Having someone’s broken down RV in your driveway could get you into trouble with your Home Owner’s Association.


So Christmas 2016 really is the best of times and the worst of times, but it provides us the opportunity through His gift to merge the two camps. The universal need we all share is the need to be loved, valued, respected and included as family. For those of us who “get it” when it comes to Christmas, we are privileged by the Divine opportunity to promote Christ’s love. God’s Christmas gift to us is the saving grace to dispense grace. We best represent His gift in our lives when we duplicate that same kind of love to those with whom we share space and familial ties.


The best way I know to wrap Christmas up with the right bow is to ensure we walk in His love, provide extra grace when extra grace is required and do all we can to role model the environment of the peace that can be ours at Christmas.


All My Best!



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