We’re just past that time again – overextended credit cards, no place to park, wet snow, cold wind, rude clerks and, this year, added unemployment at record levels.
They started getting us ready again this year at Halloween. (Is that really a Christmas tree?!) “Fresh cut Douglas Fir Christmas trees” that are supposed to last until New Years were already cut and stacked at the supermarket. Santa was in the malls, and Christmas music was starting to be heard, all before the Halloween decorations were taken down.
At Thanksgiving, the children and grandchildren were already making a list (on their high-speed computers or smartphones) and checking it twice, and your entire Christmas budget (if you had one) will have had to have been spent on the first two kids on the list if you got them what they really wanted. However, the good news (hopefully) is that you had finished paying off last year’s bag of goodies from Santa. Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy Holidays!!
We eat leftovers, dump wrappings and look for ways to extend credit status. We have pine tree needles falling on the carpet, ungrateful kids, dissatisfied gift recipients (“not another necktie!”), returned sweaters (“I cannot believe somebody spent money on that!”), standing in the return lines and your grandchild working on a present someone gave you (an electronic gadget you can’t work, like some new computer thingamajig that’s flashing 12:00).
We had begun to partition off this time of the year. In the public schools, Christmas is now “Winter Break.” Store clerks were careful not to say “Merry Christmas!” but “Happy Holidays!” The innocuous civil libertarians zealously protected the “rights of the citizenry” by banning any, God forbid, religious inferences. More and more, Christmas must be seen as a secular holiday.
We had to be careful not offend Kwanzaa-ites, atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., etc., etc. By the way, while it is acceptable for each of the foregoing groups to have their specific holidays, Christmas cannot be seen as a Christian celebration, as this would somehow “violate the Constitution” (a document drafted, I might add, by an overwhelmingly large number of God-fearing men). No matter, Christians can be offended sans consequence.
Although in many cases merchants built their entire year’s profit around the orgies of the buying of Christmas presents, it is somehow bad form to refer to this time of year as the Christmas season, as it has been known for centuries.
I passed by a store window recently and saw a sign saying, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and although I knew this (don’t we all?), it struck me afresh that somehow maybe that simple truth had gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of the Happy Holidays! season. Could it be that we have allowed ourselves to be seduced by the tinsel and trappings now associated with winter break and have somehow lost our grasp of the meaning of “Christ-mass” (cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038 A.D.)?
After all, at Christmas, our debt load increases, our children are taught lessons that are essentially based on greed and lust, the suicide rate spikes among the elderly and lonely, robberies increase, child abuse increases and, in some cases, the first steps toward divorce can begin over some vague holiday season disappointment.
Then I suddenly remembered not the wonderful, joyous Christmas bag of fruit and one toy I would get as a child, but watching a non-Christian Christmas program called “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” It is not the least bit religious, quotes no scripture and makes no mention of the birth of the Savior of the world; nevertheless, it eloquently makes a point.
It seems the Grinch planned on stopping Christmas by stealing everyone’s presents, and he succeeded in his task. So on Christmas morning, he waited to hear the wails of anguish and disappointment from the villagers. As he waited with bated breath, he suddenly heard singing. “How could this be?” he wondered. No presents, no trees, no toys, no fancy wrappings, nothing. Yet Christmas came anyway. Well, isn’t that what Christmas is all about to begin with?
The original Christmas came outside a small village in the Middle East. I have been there many times; it is a most inconsequential place. There was nothing to mark it as the most significant spot on the face of the earth, no bright lights or beautifully wrapped gifts, no decorated trees, no jolly fat men in red suits – just some lonely shepherds “keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Then suddenly, there was an announcement: “Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all nations.”
Now what could possibly have the power to bring great joy to all people everywhere? “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” And then there was a celebration, a celebration unparalleled in the history of mankind. For suddenly there was with the messenger bringing the announcement “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men!”
That’s why there are Christmas lights – the Light of the world. Not expensive presents and lavish feasts, but peace and good will among men.
Maybe that is why many of us look forward to Christmas. Grownups, despite the multitude of tasks and expense associated with that one day, also smile a little more. Folks do seem to be a bit friendlier and strangers smile, nod and wish someone they’ve never seen before a “Merry Christmas!” Hey, you know, I feel better already. No more bah humbug for me.
It is a celebration of peace and good will. Trees or not, presents or not, Santa or not, Christmas is going to come anyway! Ain’t it great?!
We may not know each other, and I’m a day late, but “Merry Christmas y’all!” and to quote tiny Tim: “God Bless Us Everyone!”
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