The Christmas spirit is upon me, which naturally means that this is the time of year that I get the most nostalgic and sentimental. Well, slightly more than usual at any rate.
I’m not sure why that’s the case, although it’s probably an emotional holdover from when I was a kid. When Christmas was the alpha and omega of everything that a child waits for all year. Then, Christmas was all about what gifts you could expect. Whether your pile would be bigger than your sister’s. Whether Santa (or later your parents) really were going to get you that GI Joe aircraft carrier, that Nintendo, that bb gun. It was about seeing your cousins and stuffing your face full of turkey (or ham on off years.) But what’s Christmas about now? What does Christmas mean to a 33 year old with no kids who lives a time zone away from those parents, that sister, and those cousins?
To me, the meaning of Christmas isn’t just about Jesus – mostly because I’m still trying to figure out what the meaning of Jesus is. But to 2.1 billion Christians in the world, celebrating the birth of the big JC is about celebrating an age of new hope. It’s that for me too, although it’s also about looking back on the year and reflecting on what’s past and what’s still to come. Christmas is about feeling small and quiet and humble AND it’s about feeling loud and loved and happy. And, if you’re like me, Christmas is a little bit about realizing how very lucky you are and how not everyone gets such a fair shake.
I’m not really very much of a religious person these days, but I do have a little ritual I try to do every Christmas. It involves standing outside under a clear cold night sky and looking up. I try to feel the weight of accumulated history and the massed potential of the ages to come. I think about Jesus; a baby: small, scared, helpless. I wonder if he was real and if so if he was divine. I don’t think a loving god would begrudge me these questions. I wonder if he ever knew how much his teachings would change the world. I think about the good works his followers have done. I think about the horrors they’ve inflicted. And I hope. I hope that the better angels of our nature will prevail. I hope that the Christmas spirit of quiet contemplative love will win out in the end. That’s what I do to give meaning to my Christmas.
And then I go inside. Because it’s warm and loud and people I love are waiting for me. And, despite all my claims, I have monster of a gift pile to attack.