It has come and gone. I’m still waiting. What am I waiting for? I’m not really sure. A friend reported that her son called last Thursday “Christmas Groundhog Day”. When she inquired about what he meant, he replied, “Well, if you go outside today and don’t see the Christmas Spirit, you’re not going to find it.” Well, on that day, I looked. Not there. I figured it was still early and it would come. But, I didn’t find what I expected. No warm fuzzies to be found anywhere.
We spent time on Christmas Eve with our children and grandchildren and then later, with the Lovely Lady’s family, opening presents and enjoying each other’s company. It was nice. I don’t remember finding it there either. On Christmas day, we went to church and I had the privilege of leading worship. We sang a lot of traditional Christmas carols. People smiled and told me they enjoyed the service. More family time for Christmas dinner and then music making with my long-time brass companions. It wasn’t unpleasant. But, there were still no refreshing, emotionally satisfying feelings that all was right with the world. I kept looking, but what I’ve always thought of as the “Christmas Spirit” never showed even so much as its nose. The feelings just never came this year.
I’ve spent a good bit of time puzzling about this phenomenon over the last few days. Then tonight, I had a conversation with some friends and I think I understand a little better. I’m not so disappointed as I was, nor am I wondering any longer if I’m just experiencing an episode of seasonal distress, which I’ve mentioned before. This evening, my friends and I spoke of family matters and as we talked I realized that they, like many of my friends, are facing difficult circumstances. Although I have had a glimmer of this idea before, it was as if a light had been uncovered! My somber mood comes from an abundance of trouble for folks I know and love. More than one friend has been diagnosed with cancer, another with a serious heart condition, and aging parents are becoming a constant issue for many, while several others have lost their parents this past year. I wrote earlier of a loved one in trouble with the law and am also reminded of some who are having marital problems. Financial burdens threaten to overwhelm several I know. The murder/suicide in our town just over a week ago weighs heavily, and the feelings of concern for the families involved cannot be denied.
It is difficult to celebrate, to rejoice, when faced with the formidable reminders of suffering all around. To do so seems a bit like Nero fiddling as Rome burns around him (although it couldn’t have been a fiddle he played, and was more likely a lyre. And he sang, too). But then, I am reminded that this madman rejoiced because of the destruction, so maybe it’s not a good parallel. I do find myself asking, along with little Gretl Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”, even after forcing out a verse of a song which reminds of her favorite things, “Why don’t I feel bettah?” I’ve done everything I know to achieve the Christmas spirit, I’ve been with loved ones and friends; I’ve sung the carols; I’ve laughed and told stories of years past. And, still I feel a sense of sorrow, of sympathy…yes, even of sadness.
But, because of the season it is, because we celebrate the appearance of a Savior at this time of year, I begin to realize that perhaps this is actually the real Christmas Spirit. This sense of concern for people who are hurting – could it be more what the season should really inspire, instead of the touch-feely, warm-fuzzy feeling we’ve been led to expect as the proper spirit in which to approach the season? The Baby came to heal, and to bring life, and joy; but He came in the midst of deep darkness and He brought real light. The selfish part of me wants it to be about happiness, and parties, and laughter. I am starting to think that those are false and empty promises, which supplant joy, and sympathy, and love.
Through the tears, we see a time when all tears will be wiped away. Through the pain, a time when these bodies will be afflicted no longer. Through the bearing of other’s burdens, we are certain of a time when all burdens will be removed completely and we will be truly free.
When that happens, it will be always Christmas, and never winter. I’m thinking that we may have to trudge a mile or two more in the snow before that time comes. I can manage it, if you’ll come along…
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
“Selfishness makes Christmas a burden; love makes it a delight.”