Think back to when you were a child. At that time Christmas held magic – would we get what we had asked for? Would Santa eat the cookies and drink the milk? Might we get a glimpse of the jolly old elf? Perhaps my best childhood memory was when my Mom’s brother visited. On Christmas eve under some pretense long since forgotten, my uncle took me out in the car to run an errand. As we drove I spied a red light in the sky. Today I would say it was an airplane, but back when life was simple and magic was real, I knew what it was – it was Rudolf’s nose; Santa WAS on his way. When we got back to the apartment we went in and “what to my wondering eyes did appear” but gifts under the tree! Mom was upstairs visiting a neighbor, and I ran up shouting that Santa had come! Because my mother taught school and then worked as a waitress on weekends and holidays, it was not unusual for us to have Christmas on Christmas eve. What fun Christmas was that year – I’m not sure it has ever been matched…
As we grew older and harder edged with regard to the spirit of magic, our experiences of Christmas changed. I remember when I first had my own money how pleased I was to be able to buy gifts for my mother, who had gifted me generously for so many years. Of course pay back was not really an option, but I wanted to make an effort.
My recall of Christmas as a teenager and young adult are less clear although I do remember traveling to California one year with my mom and spending time with some of our extended family – where there was a Dad and other kids (grown up like me, but kids in the family story nonetheless). I remember that with fondness because family gatherings were not regularly woven into my experience.
Then with later years would come the Christmas with a loved one in the hospital, and no amount of trying could make it a joyful time. And worse was the Christmas after a loved one had died, one in a series of holiday “firsts.”
But beyond these historical differences, I am finding this Christmas in 2015, to be very, very different. For one – by way of back drop – here in the Northeast the weather has been far more spring-like than crisp and cold, never mind the hint of snow in the air. More importantly however, is the impact of our world on my (and perhaps your) experience of the Christmas season. The news and social media are filled with mostly bad news, heightened political rhetoric (oh, that we could find a way to converse…), and worries about stepping out of the house, sending our children to school, or even going to a movie, not to mention traveling the world.
And then, then I had the good sense to put on some Christmas music. I sang out in my limited-ranged voice along with the CDs, “Go, Tell it on the Mountain,” “Joy to the World” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” – and my heart began to lift. The lifting is the same spirit that infuses every Christmas, regardless of the influences of the world or our own physical lives. And in that, I am reminded that it is not fear that is real; remember that the angel says, on numerous occasions, “Fear not!” Fear is a human invention. What is real are those things we cannot touch and yet which are the lasting, true aspects of our daily living: love, which we share with those around us and extend to those we don’t know and may never meet; hope, which inspires us to get out of bed each day, confident that in spite of our shortcomings, a better world awaits us; peace, which we long for, and one day will be ours (love demands this of us); and joy, which carries and connects us in unique ways.
In this particular “Christmas, Different” I encourage you to turn on – and UP – your Christmas music. Let the music carry you back to simpler times in your life, and carry you forward, into a dark world which is just waiting for your light.