Do you have a favorite Christmas? I have one that stands out from all the rest. Now, all the rest have been pretty wonderful, but this one Christmas was, on a scale of 1 to10, at least a 100.
It was 1986. I was in rehab for chemical dependency. Yes, I'm an alcoholic and an addict, something I'm grateful for, but that's another story.
Every year, around this time, we are blessed with all kinds of stories, songs and movies about what Christmas means. We also get inundated with the commercial side of Christmas. I don't know about you, but it tends to make me a bit jaded about the holiday. It seems that it gets harder every year to focus on the meaning of Christmas.
Picture a Christmas when you are not allowed to buy gifts. You don't expect any in return. No expectations, no stress. I don't know about other rehabs, but at mine, we weren't allowed to go home for Christmas. I couldn't have if I wanted to because I was on the west coast and most of my family lives in New York. So, unlike any other Christmas that I can remember, I had plenty of time to think about the holiday. At the time I would not have labeled myself a Christian, so I wasn't thinking about the birth of Christ.
Less than two months earlier, I was consumed by helplessness and hopelessness. Alcohol, being my 'drug of choice,' was all that I thought about or cared about. Any hope of abstaining for any real length of time had vanished. If you've ever been at a point in your life when you felt all hope for a normal and happy life was gone - forever, then you you will remember what it felt like to have hope in your life again.
So, there I was, spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years in a rehab for alcoholic indigents. On the surface, that may seem sad, but the gift I received that year was better than any gift I've ever received before or since and I didn't find it wrapped up with bows on it sitting under the tree. That year, I was given hope. It changed my life. I was lucky enough to have received that gift during the holiday season.
We often talk about Christmas being the season of giving, but I encourage you to think about what it is that we give. If we have the opportunity, giving hope to someone who feels lost, is, I believe, the greatest gift we can ever give. If we only have that opportunity once in our lives, we will be truly blessed.
I'd love to hear any stories that you might share about either giving or receiving hope. For me it is the message of the Christian faith. It is the message of humankind. Regardless of your faith, may hope fill your heart!