The message at the corner of Fifth and Cutting

Sunday, December 23, 2018
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I’M JUST SAYIN’

“Where are you, Christmas?

Do you remember

The one you used to know?

I’m not the same one

See what the time’s done?

Is that why you have let me go?”

“Where Are You Christmas,” written by James Horner, Mariah Carey and Wilbur Jennings

I strive each year to bring a heartfelt piece before readers on the Sunday before Christmas. I currently have four separate drafts of columns I labeled as possibilities. Each is filled with deep thoughts but lacks heart.

It’s Christmas, I kept thinking to myself over the past two weeks. I can’t just put anything out there. It has to mean something. It has to be a worthy message.

The message came to me Wednesday morning as I waited for the traffic to clear at the corner of Fifth Street and Cutting Avenue.

The older I get, the less appeal Christmas has for me. I don’t say this in a (completely) Scroogeish or Grinch-ish way. I suppose the magic of the holiday is lost on all of us to some degree as we leave childhood and enter the stormy waters of adulthood.

I’m not one who mistakes gifts and decorations as the true meaning of the season. I know it’s when those of Christian faith celebrate the birth of Jesus. To be honest, though, even the joy and wonder of that event have ebbed as I’ve aged. So I do not decorate my home and yard for Christmas, attend special holiday presentations, consistently listen to merry music, go on gift-buying sprees or anything else synonymous with the season. I’m not thrilled about gatherings with family or friends, either. I enjoy regular gatherings throughout the year but the ones at Christmas feel forced in some way.

Driving down Fifth Street Wednesday morning under a gloomy sky, “Where Are You Christmas” began playing on the radio.

“I don’t know where it’s at,” I said aloud. Even when I am alone, my sarcasm persists. I remember Christmases years ago when seeing nativity scenes warmed my heart and made me imagine what it must have been like to hold the Messiah as a baby. Were there really angels hovering in the sky, playing instruments and praising a baby boy? Were there really animals there? Did the animals know what was happening? Did Mary and Joseph fully understand that they had been tasked with caring for God Himself? Did the Wise Men show up then or a few years later? Then I would think about how this baby — someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s friend — with His caring heart and servant’s spirit allowed Himself to be tortured to death so people like me could escape the final consequences I truly deserve. These thoughts were reflected in the shining bulbs on Christmas trees, the special ornaments my mother set out year after year, the choirs and congregations singing songs I love like “What Child Is This?” “We Three Kings” and “Carol of the Bells.”

But as you grow, you experience and understand loss. You realize many people feel deep sorrow at Christmas, not indescribable warmth. So much of the holiday becomes about lack of finances. Family gatherings are halted or dramatically altered by death, divorce, travel, jobs and in-laws. And what about that baby in Bethlehem? I’m not sure. I haven’t thought of Him in years, it seems.

So, sitting at the corner of Fifth and Cutting, “Where Are You Christmas” on the radio, I heard His voice in my heart. You know that voice, too.

“My birth is always.”

What? That makes no sense.

“Yes, it does. Time and circumstance didn’t change that I was born, that I died, that I live.”

Oh.

Have you ever heard those cheesy statements or messages about Christmas being in our hearts, or that we can have Christmas every day or all year? Apparently, it’s true. I forgot — I forget — that whether in my mind and heart I restrict my Savior’s birth to one day each year or not, His birth brought Him to me forever. God has existed forever. He came to Earth as a man. He died but lives. The holidays and seasons, loss of youth and innocence, the hardships in life have never changed that He exists, that He’s with me. Whatever I have let change my heart and mind hasn’t changed His. Maybe the magic I allowed myself to lose is realizing that Jesus is Christmas, and Christmas never begins or ends.

I don’t write any of this to present myself in any positive light or as some prophet. Like most, and more than some, I cast shadows. But I needed to hear a Christmas message. Mine was received at the corner of Fifth and Cutting. Maybe for one person, their message will come from page 4 of Jennings Daily News.

“I feel you, Christmas

I know I’ve found you

You never fade away

The joy of Christmas

Stays here inside us

Fills each and every heart with love”

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