In a week, millions of people around the world will be celebrating Christmas. The traditions will be unique and diverse as each person, each family partakes in this seasonal event. Some will carry on traditions handed down from generation to generation, some will embark on a new way of celebrating the holiday. For some Christmas is a secular event, for others a most holy one, yet most agree that Christmas represents something special.
I grew up not celebrating Christmas. The religion I grew up in, didn’t recognize it as an acceptable Christian holiday. I was an adult with children before I put up my first Christmas tree, a tiny fake one that would have fit well in a retelling of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. It was difficult rethinking all I’d been taught about what was horrible and unholy about Christmas, but over time, this time meant more and more to me. It is now my favorite time of year, as it is for so many others.
There is so much I love about Christmas, and so much I hate. I love carols, listening to children singing, the opening strains of O Holy Night and trying to hit the high notes as I sing along. I hate hearing “Holly Jolly Christmas” before the Halloween candy goes on sale at the local Walmart. I love deciding on what gifts to buy my family. I put a lot of thought into what to get everyone. I hate the annoying ads, the clamoring cry to buy this and that, and while you are at it, that stuff over there, that’s 15% off. Which is why I am so glad I no longer work in an occupation that has any hint of the word “retail” attached. Besides most of my shopping is done by November 1.
I love the liturgy of my church’s worship service, seeing the poinsettias gracing our alter, the time of taking even more time to consider the less fortunate in our community, the time of sharing and reflecting. I hate the stupid fights over manger scenes, whether to call it a holiday or a Christmas tree, the silly discussions over “keep Christ in Christmas”. Just let people keep Christmas, or not, their own way, and stop being so damned pushy about it. K?
I love time with family. To get together with siblings, cousins, children, grandchildren, gathered around a table overladen with food that ruins your diet just looking at the jello…it to me is special, and doesn’t get to happen near enough. what I hate? So many of us have gone through separations in our families. We’ve moved away, we’ve been deployed, we’ve had divorces we’ve had deaths. Families experience rifts of all kinds, some of them impossible to repair. Some however, myself and my family included, are fortunate to build anew, to experience the joy of companionship, and home with new members. Others make family from neighbors and friends to help fill in the gaps for those who cannot be there.
I love the spirit of generosity and compassion that surrounds this time of year. So many agencies that help those in need depend on donations from this season to make their budgets for the next year. I hate that the generous spirit doesn’t last. We need to consider the needy, the helpless, the ailing, the forgotten every day of every single year. Their needs do not end on December 26.
I love the message of hope, of peace, of transition, of promise, found in the remarkable story of a young woman granted an amazing task, and the child who grew up to be a revolutionary, standing for the liberation of our hearts, our attitudes our actions and our souls. I hate that people spend what should be a time of joy and celebration in mourning the loss of one dearly loved, or spending the time alone because no one cares about them, or in a nursing home wondering if anyone will stop by to see them, or having to spend the holiday in, a battered woman’s shelter, a homeless shelter, a prison or in the streets. My heart breaks for them all, wishing I could do something to ease their pain.
The sage in the book of Proverbs discusses that there’s always a time for those activities which make up life, and constructs it in a poetic contrast. In that list, we can easily find that all those in the list can show up now. The question is how do we help more find the positives in that list and eliminate the negatives? The possibilities are endless, and the needs are great.
My hope is that Christmas for all of us is a time of joy, of peace, of healing, of family, of renewal. My hope is that each of us looks beyond our little circle and sees others who need some of what we take for granted. My hope is that we extend our efforts, our love, our friendship to more and more members of our community, discovering the neighbor to love. My hope is that such activities don’t cease after the ham is consumed, the tissue paper crumbled and the empty boxes set to the curb, but that we decide to discover that what Christmas can represent is ongoing, that we help close rifts, heal wounds, dry tears, warm hearts, all year long.