December 21 2011
The music plays — Santa, snow, and reindeer frolic through the notes.
I’m sitting in a fast food joint, knowing that I used to feel excited
When I heard these tunes; what was I looking forward to?
Now, in older age, I’m finding Christmas songs irrelevant.
Is that also true of Christmas?
In childhood, I could barely wait; the days dragged on forever before Christmas.
Then, in parenthood, it wasn’t about me;
I yearned to give my family the magic I myself had sought in youth.
Now, in elderhood, I see my family too have moved along.
We’ve all lost the innocent belief that plenty, giving, gifts, and feasting would bring us bliss.
In those Christmas days of yore, the long awaited giving and receiving was always disappointing.
The night of Christmas and the days that followed were just ordinary times.
Nothing changed, in all those years of Christmases – nothing important.
Except, I finally learned – it took me long enough! – that bliss comes from within;
That delight – the happiness for which I longed each year –
Is with me all the time, a gift of spirit right along with love, forgiving, and awareness.
I don’t have to wait for one day of the year – I can find my bliss in silence in each moment.
My Christmases have multiplied, and the one Star of my youth has expanded
Into firmaments and galaxies – the infinity of God.
All through my youth, the Church carried on an endless campaign to “Put the Christ Back in Christmas.” Along with many others, I mouthed the words, and thought them justified, sort of. They also kind of took what seemed like the” fun” out of Christmas. Manger scenes, Christmas pageants, and Christmas carols were charmingly seasonal, as were images of Santa, dreams of gifts rather than lumps of coal, a belief that Santa was All-Knowing and All-Giving, holy cards and Christmas cards with the Virgin, the infant, the ox and the ass, and hosts of gorgeous angels clothed in white robes. Legends abounded, and magic seemed to permeate the air as Christmas approached. It was about finding happiness and peace and joy as the Christ child was born. It was also about being good rather than evil, and being rewarded for our virtue with gifts of whatever we could think we wanted.
Today, I’m thinking that Santa was clearly a metaphor for God – all wise, all joyful, all wonderful. In a backward sort of way, my Christmas excitement about presents and wishes coming true really was a yearning for divine love and personhood. Jesus manifested as a human to show us, through his example, how to perceive, trust, and receive the joyful abundance that comes from loving the Divine. By becoming human, he accepted his inevitable human death. But while daringly present in human form, he showed us the love and joy we are all meant to experience – all the time, not just one day of the year. As I learn more and more about gifts of God, Christmas expands to include – potentially – all the days of every year. What a wonderful, satisfying, and truly exciting gift! Tinfoil, bright wrapping paper, and the suspense of waiting to see what’s inside each package are only pale suggestions of the gifts that Christmas is actually about.