Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas That Doesn't Come from a Store

I was out recently in the Christmas crowd shopping for my grandchildren. They don’t really need a thing. They have so much. They fortunately live within the amazing care of a dad and mom who adore and cherish and abundantly provide for them. I wanted to just package up some hugs and kisses and send those as my gifts. Wouldn’t that be enough? It would, for them. They would be perfectly fine with such gifts. But I followed the rest of the holiday legion to Target and elsewhere to lend my effort to our society’s commercial Christmas mania.

There is that line in Dr. Seuss’ famous “The Grinch That Stole Christmas” that nudges me this time of year: “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” 

Well, there’s an old fashioned idea for you. A sadly archaic thought buried beneath the nearest mall’s concrete foundation conveniently silenced far beyond the dazzling sights above--the “more” of Christmas as forgotten as the rest of Rudolph’s reindeer companions.

We’ll all get lost in the season’s holiday frenzy as we always do, fighting traffic and the crush of shoppers and buying stuff no one even needs and often don’t even want.

I have outlived the large family I grew up in which made Christmases past so endearing and enduring. My grandparents, celestial guardians in human form, left years ago though their love remains in me, always. My own parents, gone too, and with them Mom aproned in the kitchen cooking with love and Dad carving the turkey with strands of his thick grey hair dangling in his face. Images forever held in my vision. And my brother John, gone too, and the sound of his laughter. This is the part of aging we often never think about until we’re in it: the losses that come. The limits of time. The precariousness of health. The fragility of life. The fickleness of fate. It’s all in the landscape of our human pilgrimage and we experience it day by day.

Celebrations like Christmas are meant to soften the realities of our lives. Families gather. Meals are shared. Conversations are had. Parties are attended. Toasts are made. Laughter is heard. Music is played. Lights beam. And, if we’re not too hardened or cynical or too worn down by the tempting shallowness of it all, life seems for a brief respite almost kind.

Christian churches have their Advent wreaths and the hanging of the greens. Candles burn brightly and colorful banners broadcast peace and love, faith and hope. And if it’s all taken in the right spirit, if worshipers slow down enough to get the message, to ponder the mystery, to consider love—welcoming it, honoring it, practicing it—then perhaps the “more” of Christmas is found.

There is a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that goes as follows:

“Calvin: This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn't make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? If the guy exists why doesn't he ever show himself and prove it? And if he doesn't exist what's the meaning of all this?
Hobbes: Dunno. Isn't this a religious holiday? 
Calvin: Yeah, but actually, I've got the same questions about God.” 

That little conversation is deeply important to consider in the midst of the Christmas hoopla.

Santa and the whole wonderment of Christmas delights can thrill children, if they are fortunate enough to have much of a Christmas. We seem to forget that many never do. And the whole church dynamic of Advent where shepherds see the star, and wise men gather, and Jesus is born—can be moving and instructive. But we forget that not everyone feels included in the church’s Christmas scenery or its story.

Long ago, when Christmas supposedly got started, the world was deeply in need of gifts of love. It is today as well. And here, in what politicians and patriots claim as Christian America, love is needed, too. Not sentimental holiday hogwash. Not lectures about US exceptionalism. Not divisive self-righteousness that wounds and alienates. Not religious grandstanding. Not indifference to racism and hate and war. But active love. Just actual, lived out, kindness and goodness and love.

Wouldn't that, this Christmas, be enough?


© 2014 Timothy Moody

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