I used to hate this time of the year! I could have been compared to Lady Scrooge, though I managed to put on a good front! I hated fighting all the crowds, shopping for things I didn’t need, didn’t want and couldn’t afford, to give to people I really didn’t like.
Then it dawned on me that there was something others seemed to love about this time of the year that I just couldn’t. This whole season – from Thanksgiving, through Chanukah and Christmas and into the New Year is supposed to be all about love. First of all, God’s love; secondly, love for one another. But I realized one season, that I was incapable of love. No wonder I hated this season! I think that was the key that unlocked my confusion through the years.When you are finally able to love God and your fellow man, then and only then are you truly able to love yourself!
Oh how I wish I could have known when I was young all that I do now. The insight, wisdom and discernment I now have about people, family, our planet and my own existence has finally been put into perspective. The first line of Rick Warren’s book, "The Purpose Driven Life" says it all: “It's not about you.” My life had always been about me! I would pout if I didn’t get what I wanted when I wanted it. I would cry if I didn’t get my way. I had no sense of delayed gratification and I was true to the image of growing up in the “Self-Centered Sixties.” If it felt good, do it. My motto was the same as Solomon’s, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
Interestingly when I picked up a copy of the Bible one Christmas, I found Solomon was the richest and wisest man on earth. That certainly wasn’t me. I was in my twenties, broke, hated the world, hated Thanksgiving and Christmas except for all the eating and drinking. Who would it hurt if I ate and drank myself to death? And believe me, I was close to doing just that! But Solomon had one thing he finally found in life as a great revelation: vanity, vanity, vanity, all is vanity. There is nothing new under the sun. How depressing! Intigued as to why he would later be deemed the wisest man of all time, I searched further. It seems when he had built all the gold temples he wanted, married all the women he could handle and ate, drank and was merry, just as was my motto…he still hadn’t found fulfillment, true joy and peace. He had verything, and yet was miserable, until he turned to God and asked for only one gift – wisdom.
It was at this time of the year 2,000 years ago that wise men followed a star – the star of Bethlehem. In a remote little village in Israel, the history of the world was about to forever change. It was 30-something years ago that I too followed that star that led to the one thing missing in my life – the only thing that could bring true peace, joy and fulfillment. Christ became more than a swear word to me that year. I had nothing to lose so I gave Him a try.
I didn’t see a burning bush or hear thunder and a loud voice. But as dry old scales seemed to slowly fall off of my eyes, it was as if I could truly see for the first time. I too had asked for wisdom. And I began to read the love letters of old that were contained in the world’s best seller – the Bible. I read the Christmas story and I began to see what I had been missing. The unconditional love of parents and grandparents was as close as I had known to real love. But even they couldn’t fill that empty place inside of me. Even they couldn’t help rid me of insecurity, hatred, anger, jealousy, pride and envy. But with God’s love, I slowly began to change.
Most people noticed the exterior change first - the 100-pound weight loss, the smile, the new cleaned up language and habits that subconsciously came about. I was a new creation – a new person! And it was no longer about me. No one was more shocked than I was. This former high school drop out became a teacher! And for the first time I experienced real love. God gave me a wonderful husband – the love of my life, and I truly learned to love others – family, friends, students, even strangers , just as I was loved, unconditionally.
This season is about just that – love. Everything else follows, but if you have not love…you have nothing. First Corinthians 13 says it all:
“Although I speak with tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to be sacrificed but have not love, I gain nothing.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes; love never fails. Although the prophecies and tongues, they will cease; man’s greatest knowledge too, it will pass away. For we only know in part until the Perfect comes. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became grown, I put childish ways behind me. For we only see as through a glass dimly, but one day we shall see Him face to face. Then shall we know Him even as we are known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these, and to all of us . . . is love.
By the way, this is indeed now the most wonderful time of the year – my favorite!
Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is www.pepperseed.org