The greatest gift of all

(Originally published in Corsica Globe 12/21/10)

In high school in southern California, I worked many odd jobs to make a buck. Somehow, through a variety of connections, I landed a gig with a strip mall playing characters during promotional events. For St. Patrick’s Day, I was a leprechaun (a 6 foot 5 leprechaun), in the summer, I was a cowboy, for Chinese New Year, I was a dragon (lack of peripheral vision and a long uncontrollable tail landed to many stores asking us not to return in costume). I even played Santa Clause. This was a fun gig, playing Santa. People respected Santa. Even though you knew that there was a regular Joe under that fake (and very scratchy) beard, you still treated him with respect. Why? Because, somehow deep down, you really didn’t want to get put on ANY naughty list. Yes, kids cried when they saw you, but people in general treated you nicely. I sat around all day ho-ho-hoing, promising things I never could keep and all in all making people happy.

I also played the Easter Bunny. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I did so twice. Christmas time in Southern California is chilly, but nice. Think of it as how our November was this fall. That was winter. Spring on the other hand is a nice South Dakota summer. As the Easter Bunny, I was in a full polyester costume. Scratchy. Itchy. It didn’t breath. I so hoped that others didn’t realize just how ripe I thought I smelled. I had to wear a giant plastic bunny head, with a crown support that dug into my forehead. With the plastic bunny head in a hot sun it became a bunny head shaped oven set to 350. I was hot. I was tired. My feet hurt. My arms hurt from carrying that blasted basket filled with 700lbs of pathetic plastic eggs no one really wanted. To top it off, people didn’t treat me nicely. Unlike Santa, the Easter Bunny doesn’t have a naughty list (let alone a nice list). And so I was slapped, hit, tail pulled, kids ran away crying, and high school kids made fun of me. All the while being paid five bucks an hour. I hated it. I hated my life at that moment. But no one knew it. Because all they saw was the huge, gigantic moronic grin plastered on the face of the bunny. No matter what I was feeling inside the suit, everyone thought I was happy.

What does this have to do with Christmas? The gift of Christmas is fulfilled in Easter. Let me explain. Like that experience as the Easter bunny, there are many times when we’re hurting or cranky or upset or all the above. Everything’s a bubble off par. Our kids aren’t the least angelic, our marriage’s a wreck, the business is going down the tubes and no one knows. All they see is that grin on your face saying all’s okay in life. And then of course, you bump into someone who’s going through their own mess and they too have a big fake smile too plastered on their face. We’re all doing okay. No! That’s the problem. We’re not. As a human being, we do this, and sometimes we do it so well we believe ourselves that all’s okay.

This is the gift of Christmas fulfilled in Easter. On that first Christmas, Jesus was born. Why? The Christmas carols say it well “Hark! The Herald angels sing “Glory to the new born king; Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled.” Jesus came to reconcile us with God. What does that mean? To tear down the walls we’ve built, to tear away the things we’ve hidden from each other, ourselves and even God. He came to restore relationships—our relationship with God, ourselves and each other. Jesus proclaimed peace, he cried when he was grieved, and he admitted to his closest circle when he was in need of praying to His Father in heaven.

So many times, we wear a mask like the Easter Bunny. We hide who we are. We hide our financial troubles; we hide how we feel about ourselves, about our family. We hide behind a gigantic fake grin. This Christmas, accept the greatest gift of all. It’s the gift of Christmas fulfilled Easter morning, when Jesus rose again from the grave, defeated death, and broke down the walls of sin, the walls that separated our relationship with God, and with one another. Take off the mask and accept the gift of love, of peace, of reconciliation, the freedom to be you before friends, loved ones and most importantly God Himself. This Christmas it is the best gift you can give yourself.

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