(I was raised in a culturally Christian family. While we did not practice a religion, we got caught up in the mystery of Christmas, and no one more so than I. Here is something I wrote a few years ago that speaks to my feelings)
I somehow lost the meaning of Christmas this year.
It’s probably more accurate to say that I got overly caught up in some parts of Christmas, and lost or forgot or didn’t make time for others. I did enjoy much festivity and mirth, and I cooked and baked to beat the band. I got to hear more music than usual, which was so wonderful, wasn’t it? From Gregorian Chants and the Messiah to O Holy Night and Good King Wenceslas, I can never have too much of it. In fact, I feel that Christmas music is one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God.
I was also pretty focused on joy. I thought a lot about gift giving, looking to find that which would bring joy to the eyes of my loved ones. And I did pretty well on that score, except that my generosity barely extended beyond my family and friends. I usually earmark a goodly percentage of my holiday spending and efforts on those in need, but this year I did not make time for it. I even had plans; I was going to make a contribution to help homeless families in the names of my young adult children – I pictured them expecting a special gift of money in the envelopes they’d find on the tree, only to be deeply moved by the note from the Coalition for the Homeless they found instead. And I had some gifts all ready to bring to my local community center, but neither of these things happened. I tried to do most of my shopping with independent retailers and craftspeople, and I did a few worthy things, but not nearly as much as I like to do.
But what I lost was even more than that. What I lost was the miracle part.
Usually, it is the season itself that gets me going. The music, the lights, the generations-old recipes that are like the cultural version of frankincense and myrrh, and especially the first snow.
When it all comes together to meet my senses each year in deep December, I allow myself to dream. The candles flicker among the evergreens, and I think larger, far-away thoughts. I think about the Christmas Truce, when soldiers laid down their arms in mid-battle and shook hands, sharing what they had with one another. The carols in the air fill me with their lyrics about angels and good will and the miraculous birth in a lowly manger of a savior. I look at the starry winter night sky and imagine Santa and his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer whisking merrily along. I think about peace on earth, and I think about the possibility of a miracle.
That is what makes Christmas so special to me. I’m not a deeply religious person. For most of the year, I am guided by logic, experience, perception and facts. But at Christmas I feel a child-like suspension of disbelief that is unusual for me, but which transports me to a world of possibility. I allow myself to imagine the possibility of a miracle. A radiant feeling comes over me, and I am humbled and at the same time exhilarated. It is downright glorious, and I take it into me and let it fill me with comfort and joy.
I like to think this special feeling is shared by those who are worshipping the birth of Jesus, but also by the children around the world awaiting their version of Santa Claus, and those soldiers who laid down their arms at Christmas and shook hands with their enemy. In my book, a miracle is a miracle, whether it is a jolly red elf coming down the chimney, the Son of God born to a poor family, or a world at peace.
Kim, I hope this letter serves as a reminder to you to remember the meaning of Christmas next year. It comes and goes quickly, but we both know how important it is to you. Try not to miss it again.