OPINION – Those who know me best know that I love the holidays. But this was not always the case. There was a brief period of my life when I hated Christmas and did all I could to avoid it.
It all started the year our Christmas tree wouldn’t stand.
My father had struggled with health issues for most of that year and the day after Thanksgiving he informed me that he had terminal cancer. Recognizing that this would be his last Christmas with us, I was determined to do what I could to make it a memorable one.
I surprised my parents by bringing them a beautiful, blue spruce for their Christmas tree. But as I went to set up the tree, I found that one of its lower branches was preventing it from seating fully in the tree stand. This complication left the tree top-heavy and unstable, yet if I removed the branch it would also eliminate a noticeable part of this lovely tree.
For several days I employed increasingly creative means to keep the tree standing upright, but every morning my folks would find it lain over on their living room floor. At last, with a heavy heart, we removed the branch and the Christmas tree stood straight and tall – minus a significant piece. Its missing portion seemed to symbolize our impending loss.
This event seemed to set the stage for the rest of our Christmas as my father’s health rapidly declined throughout the holiday season. On Christmas morning, as we opened our presents, my father suffered a bad fall. Shaken, he retired to his bed and remained there until his passing four weeks later.
I did my best to mask my disappointment of how this normally festive time of year had turned out, but I was glad to see the holidays come to a close. Losing someone is never easy but losing a loved one during the Christmas season is particularly poignant.
For the next several years, I found myself growing increasingly bitter at Christmas time. The lights, the songs, and the decorations were mocking reminders of what had once been a joyful occasion. Every bit of crass commercialism jumped out at me and reinforced the idea that this was no longer an occasion to celebrate. I could see my negative attitude was beginning to affect friends and family members, yet I felt powerless to change it.
A turning point came when I was invited to attend a Christmas program called “The Forgotten Carols.”
My Grinch-like attitude was firmly in place when I took my seat in the auditorium, but it did not survive to the end of the performance.
The show itself was a retelling of the Christmas story, but through the eyes of characters we seldom consider. These included the innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary away, a shepherd whose friends told him of choirs of angels and a babe in a manger, a childless woman who held the Christ-child, and an angel who failed to make the cut to sing in the heavenly choirs.
Each song and each character served to gently steer my attention back to the true focal point of why we celebrate Christmas. Without being preachy, The Forgotten Carols conveyed a message of divine love that for too long had been absent in my life. My vision came back into focus. My once-frozen heart softened and then expanded. I left the theater a changed man.
The following day I had the opportunity to interview the show’s creator Michael McLean. I related to him how I had struggled with Christmastime following the death of my father and how his show had restored something to me. He responded that this was something he heard often from audience members who had experienced a loss during the holidays.
When I thanked him for giving Christmas back to me, he simply hugged me and told me, “You deserve it.”
There are many around us who are currently struggling with loss or whose Christmas tree figuratively refuses to stand. What might we do to help them feel the love and peace of that Individual whose birth we celebrate?
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Email: bryan[email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.