Christmas has been an interesting experience this year.

First there were more people and presents than to which we were accustomed. Everywhere we went, the Christmas trees were larger and there were more presents under them. In addition, there were creches and nativity scenes almost everywhere we turned. For the first time in years Christmas did seem to be about Christmas and not just some sort of tradition.

We have become accustomed to just the two of us and a few friends gathering together. Here we were surrounded by family and friends at every turn. Christmas day we had two times of sharing gifts and life with family. It was almost surreal at times.

Finally it was warm. Whether or not one agrees with the global warming crowd, this year Christmas was warm. Shorts and t-shirts were the dress of choice. I got a pair of beach sandals for a gift and instead of wondering if would ever get to wear them it was more like how soon can I put these on and give the "dogs" some air.

Plus for me it was the first day in over two weeks to wear pants without an elastic waistband. Yeah, they were jeans, but they were real pants.

The only shortage was in energy. Being just over two weeks post-surgery means the energy flees with any exertion. By the end of the day pain and exhaustion were the things that stuck. (Well, the memories too)

Moment by moment we had to remind ourselves that we were not in our accustomed culture. Yes, all was familiar but seemed a bit out of the norm, or to what we had become accustomed.

It makes me wonder to what we have become accustomed. Not only culturally but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. We live where Christ is a very small and almost invisible part of Christmas. And few seem to miss Him since the shortage is that to which they have become accustomed. He is not the central figure or even the unseen guest. He is totally absent from the awareness radar.

This year's Christmas celebration helps me more objectively evaluate that to which I have become accustomed. I want to use fresh eyes to see that which shapes me. It is disturbing to think we live in an area where children can easily recount the story of Sinterklaus and do not know the biblical story of Christmas. I wonder how many can name Santa's reindeer and not the Christmas account passages in the Bible?

Culture shapes us. It is omnipresent and constantly chipping away and pressing us into its mold. Join me in actively looking at what shapes me and what I allow to shape who I am and who I am becoming.


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