I promise, I'm not the Grinch and my heart isn't three sizes too small..... but seriously, I do not get into all the holiday hype. I have various folks in my life who are positively giddy at the thought of Christmas and all the decorations and baking and.....
Well, not me.
Just so there is no misunderstanding: I have no problems with Christmas in itself. I have great awe for the actual event itself. But I have massive problems with the hype, the hoopla, the buildup and frenzy only to have it disappear on the 26th as if it never happened. And the commercialism is encroaching into other parts of the calendar. It is bad enough that stations begin 24/7 holiday music before Thanksgiving..... and that Christmas decorations are out around Halloween.
Whatever happened to simple celebrations of miracles? To a time when our gatherings focused on family, on all we'd been given, on the fact that we were together and alive and have another breath and the opportunity to reflect and recommit ourselves to the message of the manger?
For so many, Christmas is an extremely difficult time -- joy that is tempered by loss, by sadness, by broken relationships and our own broken hearts and broken pride. I have also felt the pains of non-Rockwellian Christmases, where the snow never falls, the table always has an empty seat or two, and the heart feels bereft of any emotion, let alone joy and wonder. Christmases colored not in red, green, gold or silver, but in blues, greys, even black.
For a long time, I simply wanted to fall asleep on December 16 and wake around January 4 ..... I wanted so much to avoid Christmas. I felt very acutely what it was to no longer have Christmas. I suppose I noticed it starting after my grandmother's death. For me, Christmas was always the celebration that belonged to my dad's family -- at least in our celebrations, and especially so after my mother's mother passed. To have it ripped away due to death and to misunderstandings and miscommunications ..... a dagger in an already-wounded heart. It is but a window into the pain that many families feel on a much greater scale.
So I try to make my Christmas celebrations a little more low-key. I'm not against gifts, but I'm far more appreciative of the love and the sentiments behind the gifts. I'm not against parties and fun -- quite the opposite! I love the gatherings of friends and family and expressing our happiness to just be together. One of my favorite events of the last few years is the night I gather with choir friends and other people from my church to do neighborhood caroling, followed by snacks and warm drinks at their house. All it costs me is the investment I make in a snack to bring and a few hours out of my night. Worth every moment, and the fun we have wandering the neighborhood is awesome .... as well as belting out tunes around the piano! These are the things that give me the warm fuzzies and make me believe in Christmas.
The beauty of Christmas isn't in the money I spend on gifts, but in the love and warmth felt in hearts. It is in the humility and simplicity of a place where a tiny baby was born into poverty and despair and yet whose message in life and death was that there's so much more ..... if we just believe.
This is where my heart lies ..... believing that there's so much more, believing that it cannot be found in the clamor of the seasonal squawk and noise but in a whisper of soul to soul, believing that miracles are unlimited and that they still happen in every moment.
It may not be Madison Avenue's view of the perfect Christmas, but then again, neither was the first one.