Last Christmas, this happened.
Like many people the week before Christmas, I was dashing around, trying to get last-minute holiday preparations wrapped up. The radio was on as I drove between errands. I was checking to dos off the list in my head when I heard the voice.
“This morning, you brushed your teeth. You showered and dressed just like you do every day,” the voice said.
I don’t know why, but whirling thoughts became instantly still, and the voice on the radio suddenly had my full attention.
The voice relayed more details of my day as though it belonged to an invisible man who had been shadowing me since my waking moment. Little goose bumps popped up on my arms. The voice recalled my drive to the office this morning, my cup of coffee while greeting coworkers on the way to my desk. It knew I had lunch, knew I ran errands, knew I would watch a little TV before bed.
“You did all of these things just like you did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that day,” the voice continued. “It’s just an ordinary day. Except, what you won’t know until tomorrow is that today is the day before.”
What was feeling like a supernatural encounter turned out to be a commercial, for what I can’t even recall. That was last year. The experience so impacted me, I’ve still not stopped thinking about “the day before” since.
We never know what typical day is the day before. Remember September 11, 2001? We all went about our lives on September 10th like normal. It was the day before. No one expected what happened the next morning when our lives as Americans changed forever. We reeled and grieved. And we adapted to a dramatically altered America than the one we lived in the day before.
The day before is not always bad. Millions of people purchase lottery tickets on a regular basis. According to Texas Lotto Prizes, the odds of winning the jackpot in Texas are one in 25,827,165. Yet, someone does win. The day before, that person goes about the day as usual, picking up a lottery ticket with a loaf of bread and gallon of milk. It’s a regular day like every other day. And then tomorrow, they are immediately transformed from regular people into millionaires with more money than most of us will make in a lifetime.
Someone shared a little Grinch cartoon on Facebook this week that popped up in my feed. Here is the caption: “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.”
I needed that reminder. I’m not a Grinch. I love this season most of all! I look forward to it, promising myself that this year I will not wait until the last minute to get Christmas pulled together. Yet, at the last minute, there are end-of-year work projects to finish, packages to wrap, stocking stuffers to pick up, family to visit, meals to plan. And I find myself lost in the details of producing this event called Christmas, forgetting why we celebrate it in the first place.
Like you, I want to delight every person on my list, show them through a present that I love them. Remember Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?” The premise of the story is how the Grinch loathed the Whoville people’s accumulation of stuff and presents and over-indulgence. It’s not until the end of the story that the bitter green guy comes to understand that Christmas is not in the stuff. Christmas is in the thought and heart and love behind it.
All the hustle and bustle alters our focus from the why to the what. We forget about “the day before” and what’s really important. The present says, “You matter to me.” It’s not the present itself that touches; it’s the idea that, “Hey, this person cares for me!” I know this because it is exactly how I feel when I am on the receiving end.
Real Christmas is about being present. My Christmas wish is that we all determine to be present in our presents to our others, present in our relationships, present in the little moments that accumulate to be the lives we look back on and the legacy we eventually leave behind.
Like the voice on the radio said, let’s pledge to live every day as if it is the day before. Starting with immersing ourselves in what Christmas really means.