It’s nearly Christmas. Whatever that may mean to you is entirely a matter of faith, tradition, and experience on your part.
But so is the rest of life. Christmastime, as an experience, is nothing more than the rest of your life made more vivid.
For those not from a Christian tradition, the day is a reminder that they are in the minority. Some harbor resentment and make a point of not enjoying the day. Others go out for their own traditions, say Chinese dinner and a movie. Being a minority may well not be important most of the time, but at Christmas it defines those who do not celebrate. They attitude they greet the day with is an expression of who they are, magnified.
There are those who come from a Christian tradition who feel it has brought them nothing but pain. Very few of them are happy over this holiday because it brings so many memories flooding back. It can also bring terrible guilt, far more than some can deal with. Christmas can be the most painful day of all for those were once taught it was a day of joy but never felt it was with in them.
Some who are genuine Christians revel in the day. It can be a source of great joy for unto them a savior is born. The holiday meets and matches Easter simply because it has to. Christianity is ultimately defined by sacrifice, by a passion for life that meets its end gladly so that it may never end. Yet faith also requires great joy, which is why Christmas is so necessary for those who truly believe. Nevermind that it has far deeper pagan roots than genuine Christian ones – the joy of Christmas is essential and worth celebrating well. Faith in the savior must bring joy as it genuinely does the rest of the year. Christmas is simply about making it obvious and extroverted.
Some with small children find Christmas to be their day and also celebrate it well, regardless of faith. This is a day of possibility, a day when just about anything can happen. Those who see this day through the eyes of their children are not only joyful, they are unleashing the great spirit which sustains them every moment of their life. To be a parent, to take this on deep in your heart, is to want to see the world as a child again. Christmas is the day when the job part of being a parent dissolves and the eyes of a child sparkle anew.
There are those who are alone on this day, cut off from the world. This happens largely because they let it happen, but blaming the victim never gets anyone anywhere. People who have this tendency set themselves apart from the world for a variety of reasons, usually defined by the pain of connection. Whatever happened to them that makes the world so painful comes into sharper relief on this day. Everyone knows they are supposed to be happy – the act of not being so is the clearest sign that something has gone terribly wrong. Second guessing themselves makes this day so much more than every other, a day consumed by the pain which any other day might be pushed aside.
And there are those who revel in the material goods for their own sake, taking great joy from a world full of wonder and comfort. They are easy to judge as shallow, but that misses the main point often made so very clear at Christmas. Some people who place their faith in material goods first and foremost are indeed very happy. That doesn’t usually sit well with those who have little faith in the material, such as myself, but it is often very true.
All of this, taken together, is the real magic of Christmas. The bright sparkly lights are really a mirror in which we see ourselves. What comes out may be not exactly what we expect, but it is always who we are. The day apart from the others is actually the day at the center of who we are.
Where resolutions are made a week later, at the New Year, it is Christmas which makes them necessary. It would be better, I think, if we didn’t put so much into changing who we are and instead made a point of being who we are as vividly as we are at Christmas – every day.