Indian Life Newspaper -

"If Only" at Christmas


Last updated 12/4/2014 at 10:50am

I grew up on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, not because I am Arapahoe or Shoshone (I am actually part Ponca), but because our doctor in Denver told my parents that my brother needed to live on a farm. Mom had several cousins living there so that is where we went. I am not sure of the doctor’s wisdom; my mother went from a house in Denver with all of its amenities to a house in Wyoming with no running water.

I appreciate my childhood; I met wonderful friends, but as I lived through the years of poverty I found myself thinking “if only” at Christmas. If only we had enough money for toys and pretty dresses I would be so happy.

I married my high school sweetheart and we lived in an 8 x 35 foot trailer with three children while Wes went to school. I remember many-a-Christmas when I longingly thought, if only we had an attractive house to decorate and enough money to buy our children nice gifts, I would be so happy.

Wes got his education, and one Christmas we got a large check from a completed project, and he encouraged me to buy whatever I wanted for our family. (Wes felt safe in such an offer because I am the scrooge in our family.) Still, elation and anticipation accompanied me to the mall. I shopped through every store; I went back through the mall a second time, but at closing time I did not have a single gift. Tears flowed down my face in the darkness as I drove home. What had happened? I couldn’t find a gift that brought satisfaction to that elusive if only.

Then I heard my Savior’s familiar quiet voice speak to my heart. He said, “That is why I came.” His gentle presence filled my soul. I had always taught my children that Christmas was not about the decorations and gifts, but I now believed my own words. Nothing in the mall could take away fear and poverty. Nothing was there to fix a wounded heart. No gift promised peace, joy or love. Nothing had enough sparkle to make life worth living.

We all seem to deal with life in one form or another throughout the year, but at Christmas I yearn for my ceramic Christmas village to be real. Everyone loves each other there; no one is hungry or sick. No one is hurt or abused. Laughter resounds throughout cozy kitchens while mothers bake gingerbread and children decorate sugar cookies. Smiles and offers of hot chocolate greet carolers as they stroll through the snowy (or cottony) streets singing cheery melodies.

In reality, many hearts are hurting. The mall doesn’t make that hurt go away, but Jesus can. He came to a stable in Bethlehem to reveal His Father’s Kingdom. The King of kings and Lord of lords humbled Himself to bring us good news and joyful hope. As Jesus began His earthly ministry He went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Isaiah 61:1)

Have a blessed Christmas!

© Sue Carlisle 2013. Sue Carlisle is a member of the Ponca tribe and spent much of her youth on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Her passion is to encourage people to look at creation and see our awesome Creator.


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