Whew! The holidays are over; I made it.

Since my mother died three years ago, celebrations and festivities are not the same. My emotions become so stirred up that I have difficulty hearing myself . . . I lose my way. I enjoy and dearly love my family and friends, but the additional “noise” and flurry of activity makes remembering the peace in my soul arduous if not impossible.

There were moments of temporary calm amidst the commotion . . . a remembrance service with a friend where those who have lost loved ones gathered in candle light to share love and memories . . . or a midnight church communion service on Christmas Eve that celebrated what I feel is the true essence of the Holy Day . . . or a conversation with a neighbor.

The doorbell rang rather late. My neighbor, who had been playing catch with her dog in her yard, came over to retrieve the ball which had accidentally landed in our backyard. We exchanged pleasantries about the holidays and from her response I could tell that even though she said everything went well, she was still dissatisfied.

A single mom, with three children—one in high school, one in middle school and one in kindergarten—with a little prompting, she shared her frustration over the commercialism of the times. While describing herself as spiritual she said she identifies most with Christianity, but was puzzled by the importance placed on Christmas to the seeming neglect of Easter—“that’s the real holiday, isn’t it? A dead tree and gifts have little to do with why he was born in the first place.”

I really could not disagree. But rather than interject or speak up, I sensed my purpose was to listen, which I did.

We shared a hug before she returned home, and though I said little during our conversation, I felt right then that I had truly experienced Christmas—Immanuel, God with us.

“For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:20

Leviticus 26:11-12 says it this way . . .

“I will put my tabernacle among you, and I will not reject you, but I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

My pastor pointed out in a recent message that the two most repeated commandments from God in the Bible are “Do not fear” (or “be not afraid”) and “I am with you.”

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

. . . any sacred or holy moment that reminds us that we are not separate . . .

Immanuel!