One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to re-read "In the Bleak Midwinter," a poem by Christina Rossetti (the sister of famous pre-Raphaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti). The poem is so lovely that it has been set to various musical arrangements since Rossetti wrote it in the late 19th century. The most recent musical recording is by Annie Lennox (yes, that Annie Lennox), and as a fan of both Rossetti and Lennox, I must admit, I'm thrilled with the result.
Rossetti's poem has much to teach us about the overflowing nature of a loving God and the honor of worshiping him with the gifts that are most essential to our very being, to the selves God created us to be.
Yet we have a tendency—especially as women, I think—to recognize the gifts of others more readily than we recognize our own gifts. Likewise, it is also easier sometimes to value the gifts others are blessed with more than our own.
I remember one Christmas afternoon going to visit the home of a classmate and finding that her parents had spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on her presents (and that was many years ago). It was hard at age 13 not to be jealous of those gifts, even though just that morning, I'd been exceedingly excited about my own. I read somewhere once that "comparison is the thief of joy," words that explain perfectly what happened that day and, perhaps, far too many other days in our lives.
Similarly, throughout life, not just on Christmas morning, we tend to compare our gifts. We compare our own performance in school with that of our siblings. We compare our successes at work with those of our colleagues. We compare our accomplishments and our cars and our homes and our lawns and our weight and our wrinkles and our children ...1
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