so, this is christmas
We are preoccupied; at loose ends. Josh’s health has been deteriorating for awhile but the symptoms are increasingly severe.
Someone we love is dying. Time stands still even as it swirls past us. We are like escaped balloons: dormant on the inside while spasming at the whims of outside forces.
Cheryl sits beside me, lost in thought about a dying son and the pain of a family waiting to mourn. Her eyes drift closed occasionally as her body tries to recoup some of the sleep deficit from last night.
My mind is foggy but I can’t stop wrestling with the word … a single, small word. Hope. I can’t shake the foolishness, the hopelessness of the word. It drives me to my computer, though I have nothing to write.
We are approaching the Christmas season. Inevitably the coming days will force me to wrestle with that foolish word and its seasonal siblings: peace, love, joy. Where are they? The words feel frayed and worn – impractical, foolish ideals for impractical, foolish foils like me who live in a troubled world.
and here’s what we’ve done
A Toronto morning show regularly broadcasts live features from remote locations around the city and they especially love Christmas events. One snippet in particular featured an enthusiastic host who enthusiastically interviewed two enthusiastic elves who were enthusiastically endowed with pointy ears, rosy makeup, and jingly trimmings. Oh, and they were enthusiastic.
They laughed and clapped as they heralded the exciting news that Christmas was nearly here! The scene was both cringeworthy and irresistible – like open mic night at a retirement home.
The elves were spreading Christmas happiness – a good cause I suppose, until the brief moment when I realized that real people were underneath all that enthusiastic hype. I wondered how thinly the elfish euphoria had to be stretched to cover real-life troubles with family, health, or finances?
So as the elves squeaked, squealed, and squirmed through a three minute segment, their over-acting only reinforced my bah-humbugedness. We are all expected to participate in the annual tidal wave of winter magic and Hallmark fantasies but little thought is given to the emptiness that lurks underneath.
But when the ledger is balanced, do our celebrations make a difference? Do our extravagances pierce the darkness?
It’s a Christmas puzzlement.
My doubts are rooted in years of increasing Christmas fatigue. I’m an introvert, I don’t like crowds or parties, decorating and wrapping bore me, shopping doesn’t come naturally. All I want for Christmas is a fireplace, a book and some strong coffee.
I may be the exception but I’m certainly not alone. Nevertheless, Christmas is everywhere, inescapably thrust into the faces of all of us regardless how awkward, lonely, or painful the season is for them.
Serious question: Could you have Christmas without electricity? Think about it. Most of us wouldn’t know where to begin, in spite of our insistence that the season is about something spiritual. And it shows.
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve¹
We have succeeded in making Christmas extravagant when it was meant to be simple; busy when it was meant to be thoughtful; stressful when it was meant to be healing.
We get the Christmas we deserve.
god of hope
Josh had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a malady with a long list of tortuous symptoms. He passed away on November 30, shortly after the first section of this blog was written and just as the foolish themes of Christmas were stirring.
I had the honour to speak briefly at the celebration of his life. Oddly, the only thoughts I could muster were centred around the previously foolish words … except suddenly they didn’t feel so foolish.
Maybe Hope, Peace, Love and Joy feel foolish simply because we won’t trust ourselves to them.
god of peace, love, joy
I’m not a Puritan and I’m not opposed to enjoying a wonderful Christmas with all the trimmings and indulgences. Please celebrate!
It’s just that christians shouldn’t forget what the season is reminding us.
“The mighty will be cast down from their thrones, and the lowly will be lifted up. The hungry will be filled with good things, and the rich will be sent away empty.” – Mary, in Luke 1
Read the stories again. God has never been on the side of the comfortable, the influential, or the frivolous. The only war on Christmas is from people who forget the hard truth at its core: the son of God came for those who are desperate to be rescued.
Yes, the themes of the Christmas season are foolish. They’re foolish because they aren’t shiny and fun; foolish because they require faith and effort. It is also foolish to ignore them.
Christmas Day is our annual reminder that the broken world needs much more Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. They are not just fluffy dreams or feel-good fantasies. They are Divine.
If we could absorb those foolish, divine words they would lose their puzzlement.
And God would be with us.
~ ~ ~
¹ Greg Lake, I Believe In Father Christmas, https://genius.com/Greg-lake-i-believe-in-father-christmas-lyrics