Yesterday afternoon, my daughter and the other Chamber Singers from Fridley High School performed at Catholic Elder Care, a nursing home in Northeast Minneapolis. The group of twelve-ish students dressed in old English costumes and caroled in the halls of the nursing home as they meandered from dining room to dining room where they stopped to share Christmas with the residents. It reminded me of my high school days back at Red River High School in the Madrigals as my daughter and her friends sang some of the same songs using only a pitch pipe to start them off.
The nursing home is one of the nicest I have ever visited. One of my favorite church members spent her final months in a nursing home a few years back. During that time, I would visit her on Tuesday evenings when my huz had church board meetings. I would feed my children, get them started on their homework or some activity, and then I would go to visit my friend. If she was still in her wheelchair, we would roam the halls and pretend that we were about to break out of the nursing home. She desperately wanted to return to her house near the church. The nurses would know what we were up to and sort of play along with us.
While some nursing homes have a reputation for being pretty poor, the place we visited yesterday seemed like a decent place. It has several dining rooms connected by hallways with glass for the walls. There is an atrium in the center of the structure with a high glass ceiling; the back wall is lined with books. And now at Christmas time, decorations adorn almost any table or corner. As I walked through the halls, I wanted to sit down and take it all in. So I did. At first I was surprised at all of the care taken to decorate, but I realized that this home truly wants its residents to feel at home even though they are in an environment so different from the homes to which they long to return.
Because of how beautifully decorated the nursing home was, I was shocked to hear two of the workers converse about their distaste for Christmas.
I hate Christmas. I have ever since my husband I and were over. I decorate my house for everyone else. But I hate it. All the fuss. And no one appreciates it anymore. I don’t even know why I bother. I cook. They don’t say thank you. I bought a tinsel tree. It looks awful but why bother with a real one; no one cares. I don’t care. I hate Christmas.
Really? Wow. This completely caught me off guard.
Did I hear her wrong?
Who hates Christmas?
As I listened to her tone, I realized that what she said and what she meant were very different things. She claimed not to care about Christmas, but her tone said that she cared a great deal. At some point, that caring somehow was hurt. Who knows what happened, but something obviously happened to push her to such bitterness. She cares. She cares a lot. Something happened to change her feelings from positive to negative.
Something awful and traumatic…
Hurtful words said….
A forgotten gift….
A trust betrayed….
How do we share Christ with someone filled with such venom about the holiday which celebrates His very birth? How can we get past the pain, bitterness, and hurt to the soft spot that needs the touch of Christ desperately to save her from the feelings of pain that are destroying her from the inside out? How do we get past our own pain over Christmas when we feel an overwhelming sense of loss, guilt, or betrayal?
I do not know for sure….
But I do know one thing…the focus of our time, our energy, our passion, our joy, and – yes – even our pain must be Christ. One of the nativities that I found in one of the quiet corners of the nursing home showed this so perfectly. All of the faces of the people surrounding the manger turned toward Christ. The focus of their full attention was on Christ.
When we look at our Savior rather than ourselves, we see the fullness of Christmas.
And there is no room for pain, sorrow, or hate.