Since the year 336AD, December 25th has been set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the inspiration for the Christian religion. As the Magi boar gifts to “the king,” the tradition of passing out gifts started in the first century and got legs in 1823/1843 with the popularity of Saint Nicholas. Early records mark 1539 as the beginning of decorating a pine tree.
All that surrounds the season of celebration, and the giving atmosphere should spell bliss for everybody involved. That is not the case, as we have witnessed. As a matter of record, we ruined many a yule time with our destructive, addictive mindset and behavior.
We exist in a broken world. Not everybody lived in a Norman Rockwell setting. Pain is often associated with this time of the year. Depression is brought on by the memories of the unpleasant, the realization of those lost to death, while guilt absorbs the “what could have been”.
For us who are not consumed in despair, we fake a smile, slip on our best holiday sweaters, and do our best to get through the season.
So, it is not the fa la la la la that we are pitching today, but the fact(s) that for each of us, there is an opportunity to turn this time of tension and torment into a treasure. There is hope and it is packaged and wrapped and waiting to be received by anyone with the strength to accept it.
There is nothing magical about a date. Every day can be Christmas. Each day is a day equipped to give and to get.
We received the gift years ago and found it possible to transfer the treasure. The gift includes four priceless pieces to accept and embrace: forgiveness, love, time, and service.
We live in the present, as everybody should. The past cannot be changed. As hard as we try, there is no possibility of time travel (as of this writing), no way to re-do or repeat the past. We drank to forget, and we drank to re-live. We drank when we should have been forgiving.
This first piece is critical. It is free for the taking and an exercise with the greatest return on investment.
We started by forgiving others. We found this easier than forgiving ourselves. We listed those who had harmed us. That’s right, the old pen and paper. We were thorough with our list. This was painful, given the depth of the cut. Then, we looked hard at our role in the harm; were we short, sarcastic, vindictive, dishonest, spiteful, jealous, fearful, angry, or the provoker? In most cases (NOT ALL), we played a decisive part in the harm's happening.
Once the list was completed, we began lifting each offender up and truly forgiving them for their part in the violation. We prayed, sent good vibes their way, and retired the matter. It was done doing damage to our psyche. We “let it go” (reference past blog ). We released the event(s) and the individuals wholly. Anything less would defeat the value of the exercise.
Once the past was clear of resentments of others, we did the hard work of extending forgiveness to ourselves. This required a written inventory of the events deemed regrets.
That’s right, old pen and paper. Once we could pinpoint the offense that needed forgiving, we could forgive that responsible version of us. Make sense? If it was a young, immature me that lied about stealing, then it would be the young, immature me that I will forgive; if it were a 40-year-old drunk me that ruined Christmas morning, then it would be the 40-year-old drunk me that I will forgive. Separate instance, separate forgiveness. This may seem like overkill but the exercise should put the past asleep.
The point is to clear away the wreckage of the past. Deal with it and discard it. Forgive and move on as the present desires to have all of us.
True love connects to no condition. True love of another puts their needs in front of our own. True love is selfless. True love is service.
It becomes as important to learn to love oneself as we love others. It was easier at first for us to practice true love for others. Once we understand how to love, we can apply it to ourselves.
Love looks past the creation to the creator- grasping the value of each individual and their place in the universe they exist in. When we look at their preciousness, we are compelled to respect.
We love those in our sphere as we are loved by them and by our Higher Power. It has been said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." So true. We have been loved without condition and should do the same to those surrounding us.
Our call to love drives our actions. This has not always been the case, but we drift closer to inner peace today because we are intentional about these actions.
If we lived to 80, we would have 29,220 days on earth. At our age and a projected life expectancy of 80, we have roughly 7,000 days left to experience life. (Google your math) The fact is that our greatest asset is time. Time to heal ourselves. Time to build/rebuild relationships. It's time to share the love in our hearts.
We earn time with others by our love for them. We value our time and the time of others, for they, too, have a limited supply. We appreciate get-togethers not for what we get but for what we give.
We look for others who need our time—those without a voice to ask, without the energy to pursue. Time invested to help with our hands or ears pays dividends in multiple ways.
This is where it all comes together: forgiven, understanding true love, and respecting time, we put the ultimate piece to work for us and others. Service is the form love takes on. Service is the best investment of our time. Today, we serve without eyes on reciprocation. We serve without condition. We give to give.
Service is our purpose. Service allows us to give and get, as sharing raises the water level for all.
Service goes beyond the walls of recovery and into the greater universe. We strive to serve with each step.
You see, the greatest gift is ourselves. We have ourselves today because we live by the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (Honesty, Hope, Surrender, Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Love, Responsibility, Discipline, Awareness, and Service.). We have new breath from the love of our Higher Power.
The raw beauty is that we can keep it and transfer it simultaneously. We can have our cake and eat it too.
Today, we share this gift with the reader of this post. Tomorrow, we will seek out the next struggling alcoholic and present the gift to them. And in time, they will also have the legs to pass it on. That is how this thing works.
We celebrate each day, acknowledging that every tree needs a gift. We give not to impress but to make an impact. We help others unpack new possibilities.
Who will you gift today?
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from sober.coffee podcast #143 titled " The Gift of Hope - 2023 Christmas Session” The session dropped on 12/20/2023….Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.