It’s beginning to look alot like Christmas…. Well, isn’t it???

When I’m in a sad mood one of the things I do is play Christmas music. If I’m in a really sad mood, I play Kenny G Christmas music (and don’t take any cheap shots there (-:).  When I was growing up, Christmas was always a happier time.  For most of my younger life, times were hard.  My parents worked pretty hard on making it so we didn’t know they were and it wasn’t until I was in Jr. High that I had much realization of it, but they were.  And then once we hit Jr. High age, my parents started having marital problems (that continued right up until their divorce when I was a Junior in High School [or a little after]).  But despite any of that, Christmas was a happy time at my house.  My family would actually spent time together.  We’d watch movies and cook cookies together, we’d decorate and go shopping for each other, getting caught up in the excitement of getting things so unpredictable or expected and surprising each other.  Christmas was a time that I looked forward to with GREAT anticipation.

My family wasn’t terribly religious growing up.  We occasionally went to church because we’re from the mid-west and that’s what you do… especially when you have children of a certain age who can participate in Youth Groups.  And we always had a crèche and knew that Christmas celebrated the birth of Jesus.  But it wasn’t something we emphasized. 

So why do things seem different now?  Is it simply that I’ve grown up and nothing that captured me with awe and wonder as I was a child can do so now?  Why is it that I could anticipate the celebration of Christ so much when I hadn’t even fallen in love with Him yet, and now, it’s just like another day off of work… like President’s Day or Memorial Day?  I still go through to motions of decorating and listening to the music and gift giving, but it’s not filled with as much… I don’t know… magic? Butterflies in my stomach? Hope? Joy? Wonder?

And it saddens me.  Shouldn’t this be the time of year I’m able to MOST embrace those things?  Why does it feel so much like a celebration created to cause stress and hurry and worry?  How is it that, even with effort, we can’t seem to fall back to the basics of what is behind the season?  Is it that by trying, we alienate ourselves from the complex simplicity of God dwelling with us?  In the hustle and bustle I can’t even imagine having the time (or money) to make chocolate chip cookies with my mom, or watch 3 different versions of a Christmas story with my dad, or go and pick out the perfect, unexpected gift for my twin sister?  And I know that that’s not Christmas, but that’s what I remember making it so special.  How do I completely shift the view of the Christmas I grew up with into anticipating time spent with Jesus marveling at his love or with God reveling in his compassion, or with my Christian brothers and sisters, praising the Lord who unites us all?  They say that sometimes just doing those things helps change our feelings.  But to me, it just feels like more doing.  Something else I have to try to plan into my life, something else to cause stress when it’s not done right, something else to make me hurry from one thing to the next.

I still anticipate Christmas.  Every year I still cling to the hope that I’ll experience it like I did when I was a child, with such joy and sublime wonder.  And every year I feel let down. It sneaks up on me and then the next day it’s gone, replaced by cold Illinois weather, icy streets and an even icier hearts of those around me, even in me myself.

Could it be that I need to stop anticipating Christmas?  Could it be that, instead, I need to revel in this time of advent, in anticipation of the time that Jesus comes to be with us all again?  Could it be that we’re missing something, even in the most basic celebration of Christ’s birth?  Could it be that, without the anticipation of his second coming, there is nothing really to celebrate in His birth anyway?  For how can we anticipate what has already come, what has already been done? 

Wait, maybe that’s it… Christmas is a season of remembrance towards Christ’s birth.  The anticipation of the season comes from his promised return.  Just as Easter is the remembrance of His death, resurrection, and victory over death and a celebration of His promise to return, Christmas provides us an opportunity to reflect on His greatness and look forward to His presence, both in spirit and in body.

Well, goodgoshgollygeewilikers, that changes things.  I’m not ready to anticipate His return.  Maybe that’s why I feel empty at best and anxious/nervous at worst.  Maybe the proper way to approach the season is to begin actively working towards being prepared to anticipate rather than anticipating the past.  Maybe the emphasis placed on being kinder to fellow man and reconciling relationships is a part of the remembrance that we are not from nor for this world and should be striving towards something greater, anticipating every day a time when there will be no more pain or sadness, no more tears and no more stress.  Maybe we need to be anticipating that which the season represents and not the season itself.  Just as it is impossible to anticipate the wedding of friends who got married last year, it is impossible to anticipate the feelings of happiness and belonging that you experienced when you were 12.  But you can anticipate the life of love your friends will live and the joy of reconciliation that might occur in your family.

And it’s equally impossible to anticipate the birth of a savior born thousands of years ago.  But it is not impossible to marvel in the hope that that birth represents and to anticipate the joy that the fulfillment of that hope will bring.

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Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Buone Natalizie,too… God Jul to all, Froehliche Weihnachten, Merry Christmas to you!

A little commentary on saying “Merry Christmas.”

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Dear Readers, can you believe how big of an issue this has become?  3 Christmases ago my college best-friend and I almost had a huge falling out over the issue, even!  Are they Christmas Trees or Holiday Trees?  Is it “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” or “Season’s Greetings”?  Frankly, I’m not offended in the least when someone wishes me to have a good day on a day that I don’t otherwise celebrate.

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A Conversation example:

While working at Barnes and Noble on Tuesday (yes, I now work at Barnes and Noble and not Wal-Mart!  YIPEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!):

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Me:  Oh, you’re from Carlinville?  Long drive to shop!

Cute man from Carlinville:  Well, it’s here or Alton, and Springfield is just a little closer.  Do you know Carlinville?

Me:  I went to High School in Waverly and my dad lives in Girard, so I know most of the small towns around here.

Cute man:  Ah, yes, I’ll be driving through Girard on Route 4 on my way home.

Me:  Do you have much shopping left?

Cute man:  No, this is my last stop.

Me:  Well that’s good, it’s already pretty late.

Cute man:  Yes, it is.  Thanks for your help.

Me:  Merry Christmas!

Cute man:  (smiles and laughs) Happy Solstice.

Me:  (laughs and smiles) Thanks!

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Now, it is not, dear readers, just that this was a cute 28-year-old (who quite clearly does not love Jesus) that made me react so positively to a comment that at first caught me off-guard.  No, it was the fact that I was not offended at all by his wishing me a happy solstice.  If he is choosing to celebrate the solstice and wishes me to have a happy December 21st, then by all means!  I could do with well wishes on any day.  As for me, I am celebrating December the 25th.  And if I wish someone a “Merry Christmas” it is not me saying that they have to celebrate the day, too.  I figure everyone could use well wishes on any day. 

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So, dear people of this earth, whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukka, Kwanzaa or the pilgrimage to Mecca, the winter solstice or the day that dear old Uncle Albert finally let you have his baseball card collection, please do not begrudge others the opportunity and privledge to wish you well.  For I know I could probably use every well wish that comes to me, be it on December the 21st, December the 25th, January 13th, or April 24th