I remember the first time I realized that the song, “Higher Ground,” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was actually a remake of a song that was originally written and sung by Stevie Wonder. My thoughts were, No way! Stevie Wonder did this first?! I thought this was a Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song!
My thoughts were quite similar several years ago when I came across this little diddy… “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV) My thoughts were, No way! This is in the Bible?! I thought this was The Byrds’ song… “To everything—turn, turn, turn. There is a season- turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven… Sometimes we are just more familiar with the remake than we are with the original and this was definitely one of those eye-opening situations for me.
Either way, the message from the Byrds song and the one from its Biblical original is the same: There is a time for everything. The seasons of our lives come and go. We all have that in common—the passage of time. It is one of those rare unifying elements that all of creation experiences. We cannot stop it, slow it down, speed it up, or avoid it. We can usually choose how we utilize it and decide how we are going to spend our precious but fleeting days, hours, minutes, seconds. We hate to waste it, but at the same time; we often make choices that do just that.
The season we are currently in, a.k.a. “the holidays,” gets to be the craziest time of the year. But does it have to be? Do we really have to shop for matching outfits to get professional photos done so we can send 500 Christmas pictures to everyone we’ve ever met? Does our house need to be more decorated with lights than Cinderella’s castle at Disney World? Will my son really love that 6-foot crane that he requested from Santa once January rolls around—how about once I’ve finished paying it off from the credit card bill in the Spring?
I know, I know, I’m starting to sound like a Scrooge. Bah humbug, right? But seriously, what is it all about? We put so much pressure on ourselves to have everything just right—the perfect decorations, the perfect meal, the perfect presents, etc. etc. It is just too much and we are NOT perfect! We need to give ourselves a break!
I grew up in an Italian family. On Christmas Eve, we would gather together and eat the seafood meal of a lifetime. The tradition is that we should have at least seven different fishes represented, and of course, there was always pasta as well. I believe the seven-fish rule represents the seven hills of Rome. I’m not even certain if that’s the reason we had to have seven—hence my point—why? It becomes a little crazy. I think of all the years that I would go through the shopping list and do the count off: 1) shrimp scampi, 2) mussels (to go with the linguine), 3) clams oreganata, 4) scallops wrapped in bacon, 5) baccala (cod salad), 6) stuffed flounder and 7) ? . What should we have for number 7? Oh no! Christmas Eve is ruined! We don’t have a 7th fish! Let’s fry some shrimp; that’s a different dish than shrimp scampi. But would that qualify as the 7th fish?! Um, technically, the flounder and the cod are the only “fish” on the entire list; so I guess we were actually five short of our seven fishes anyway. Haha!
Anyway, you get what I am trying to say. Traditions are wonderful. Presents are fantastic. The decorations look beautiful. We just get so wrapped up (excuse the pun!) in all the season’s “must-haves” that we forget about the purpose of it all. It wasn’t until I spent my first post-divorce Christmas Eve at home, by myself, that I realized how unimportant all of those previous “must-haves” really were.
A few lines down from the Scripture that I quoted earlier it says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toils—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-14 NIV)
Consequently, I don’t think Jesus’s birth was put on our calendars for the purpose of stressing us out! Like the Scripture says: eat, drink, and be merry; but you can’t do that if you are so stuck on the things that might be lacking from your holiday.
So I invite you to join me in forgiving ourselves this season. We may not have the best Christmas card photo (or we may not get to send cards out at all, sorry!); we may eat off paper plates instead of fine china; we may not be able to afford everything off of the wish list; and we may not even have all seven fishes on Christmas Eve, but we do have each other. Let’s choose to spend our time wisely and decide which “must-haves” are most important. As you already know, our time is limited…turn, turn, turn.
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