“Waiting for the Gift of Christmas,” Dec. 5, 2017

Tomorrow or the next day, I will decorate for Christmas. Yes, time is ticking. Isn’t it always? I’m not worried. Christmas will happen at my house. All the things I need or want to do will either get done or they won’t. And it will still be Christmas.

Pretty soon I’ll wade hipdeep into shopping and baking and decorating. But not today. Today, my husband and I are still recovering from a 12-hour drive from California, where we visited family, to our home in Las Vegas, where we can sleep, hallelujah, in our own bed.

No matter the location, or how high the thread count, no bed on Earth is as good as your own.

We pulled into the garage and unpacked the car. Then I fell into bed and slept 10 hours. I’ve been drinking coffee for three days and I’m still not caffeinated enough to decorate a tree.

On the drive home, we talked about maybe not doing a tree this year. It’s just the two of us. We could go out to dinner, keep it simple. I was almost sold on it. This changed my mind.

Near Sonoma, we drove past hills that had been blackened by wildfires a month ago. More than 8,000 homes and other buildings were destroyed, and countless lives devastated.

But recent rains had drenched those hills. And on the ground beneath fire-scorched oaks, new grass was bursting forth in a dazzling green promise that hope rises even from ashes.

Life persists.

And so does the spirit of Christmas. You can’t call it up on speed dial. You can shop and bake and decorate, crank up the Christmas music, watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and hang colored lights around your neck.

But you won’t feel the spirit of Christmas until it finds you. It’s a gift that opens in your heart the moment you are ready to receive it. Until then, all you can do is wait for it, and watch for it, and believe in it. When it shows up, you’ll find yourself smiling in wonder and surprise.

So what makes us ready to “open” the Christmas spirit gift? For me, it’s something different most every year:

_ Seeing my dad, when I was 5, down on his knees, swearing under his breath, assembling the dollhouse of my dreams.

_ Finding my toddler grinning like a mule eating briars under the Christmas tree, where he had removed every stick-on bow from every package and stuck them all on his head.

_ Directing 20 kids, including my three, in a church Christmas pageant in which my oldest, a shepherd, brought down the house by using the crook of his staff to snag a wandering sheep.

_ Leaning out of an upstairs window with my first husband, three weeks before he lost his battle with cancer, and listening to carolers on the street sing my favorite carol, “O Holy Night.”

_ Driving to Yosemite with two of my grown children to spend Christmas in a hotel room with their brother, who was working that year in the park.

_ Laughing at my new husband in our new home in Las Vegas, hearing him swear under his breath while hanging Christmas lights on the back fence.

This year, Christmas found me early, when I saw green grass growing on fire-ravaged hills.

Tomorrow, or the next day, when I’m more caffeinated, I’ll drag the fake tree in from the garage. (Here in the desert, fresh-cut trees stay fresh about 5 minutes.) My husband will help, and he’ll try not to swear.

We will celebrate Christmas, just the two of us, for our family and friends, wherever they may be, from California to Carolina, or in heaven above.

But mostly we will celebrate for us — for the blessed gift of life and love that was born in poverty long ago, and is reborn each day in our hearts and hopes and dreams, and in green grass on fire-ravaged hills.

May the spirit of Christmas find you and never let you go.


  1. Debbie Spivey says

    Dear Sharon, I just read this in our Sunday newspaper. Your words and thoughts have touched me so many times and I have always thought I would let you know, even though I know you hear from thousands on a regular basis, but today, I just had to let you know how much I adore you. Our family suffered a terrible loss of a loved one by suicide a couple of weeks ago, and we are all struggling to get through it. Your words, “the blessed gift of life and love” are more powerful than you can imagine at this time. Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with me and the many others that make sure, even if they don’t have time to read one word from a newspaper full of depressing and sad reporting, they find and read your column. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Sharon.

  2. You have a happy Christmas!!
    God bless you with all family !! I am with my son and grandkids !! Still I miss my own house at Philly! Home is always sweet!! We changed many sweet homes raising our own kids but now our sweet home is where me and my husband lives and we wait for our own family to visit us.
    And after many days and months it is only two of us who pack luggage to visit our sweet family.

  3. Shirley Steward says

    Afterbeing away from the computer for the last 3 years due to illness,what a wonderful surprise to find your blog.I really missed your column in the Sunday paper. It was the only column worth reading since the Sunday paper has turned into an advertising pamphlet.Many times when you talk about your childhood I can relate since mine was very similar. This Christmas and my 79th birthday on the 8th of Dec. will be very special because I will be enjoying the day at home and not in a nursing home.
    May you have a blessed Christmas and bright New Year

  4. Portia Waters says

    Thank you, Sharon … I was in my ‘bah-humbug’ phase … the Christmas spirit was a little late with me as well ! Until Saturday nite… volunteering at the Candle Tea at the Brother’s House in Salem, I am sitting there, trimming candles in their festive red crepe paper – this nite, I was a prop – not doing a speaking part – just smiling and wrapping candles! – so I could watch the families come thru – young and old, hymns drifting down from upstairs and Christmas found me … Yes, the stool was hard, and sitting there for a three hour shift was tiring, and the drive over to Old Salem was a bear .. for the third nite! … but the children’s wonder and smiles. along with the music – settled into my heart and I was at peace with Christmas again …
    This morning when I read your article, I thought, yes … Christmas can find it’s way into our hearts in many ways … so thank you … this echoed the way I was feeling … exactly !
    Merry Christmas, Sharon, to you and yours !
    With warm regards,
    Portia Waters
    Winston Salem, NC

  5. fred hernandez says

    Tomorrow my daughter will open her fifth gift in my advent calendar — two cans of calamari in their ink. It has me giggling already. And I keep singing love songs to Rosi Edwards on her voicemail. The other day she answered the phone while she was at her neurologists’s office, and she made me sing to him. May you and Mark have the bestest Christmas ever , and please don’t break any bones. I love you, Rosasharn.

  6. Thank you for the great, early Christmas gift. Just wondering if you realize that every column you write is a gift to millions. A gift that is taken in the heart and given out little by little until the next column comes along and renews the spirit within us again and again. But mostly, thank you for remembering that we must celebrate our Christs birth even if things have been difficult . Especially when things are difficult, because only through His birth are we able to tackle life’s ups and downs. That every single day we have many many things to be thankful for. Merry Christmas Sharon to you and your family and all of your millions of reader friends.

  7. Sandra Obstoj says

    Thanks Sharon, I always love your articles. I am from South Carolina and live in Texas for the last 40 years, so I can relate to your back home stories. Years ago your article was about how sad you felt when it was your husbands last Christmas, but on Christmas day you were cleaning the kitchen and heard your children laughing and playing games with your husband ! And you said you found Christmas. My Mother was here but we were expecting to have a sad Christmas, but on Christmas Eve my son surprised us. I had told Mother your story and as soon as my son walked in she proclaimed “I found Christmas ” It turned out to be a very Merry Christmas for us ! I look forward to your stories every week !
    Merry Christmas

  8. Betty McNall says

    Thank you Sharon, it made me think back also! This last 6 months has been pretty rough for my husband has been really ill. He is much better at this time, with one more proceedure ahead of him. We have a wood stove for heat, so fake tree it is!! Have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

  9. Thanks, Sharon, for publishing this gem a day earlier than usual. I know you did it just for my birthday. It was the best present I received. Well, second maybe to Neva’s.
    Christmas blessing to you and yours,

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