Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Top 12 Reasons I Love the Season: a Christmas guest post, part 2

A delightful litany of Christmas cheer from my friend Macia Gravelding.  See part one of her list here

6.  Christmas Music

“I mean Jingle Bells.  You know, Deck them Halls, and Santa Claus and Ho-Ho-Ho and mistletoe and presents for pretty girls.”

      From the sacred to the secular, from the profound, there is something about Christmas music that moves me deeply.  These are some of the most well known songs, repeated often and with vigor.  They are shared memories and experiences, lulling us away from our busyness and reminding us to enjoy.  Bing singing White Christmas.  Burl Ives wishing us a Holly Jolly Christmas.  Nat King Cole and The Christmas Song. 

      Christmas songs have a strong emotional appeal, the ability to make us wish and hope for the peace and goodwill that they promise.  And sometimes we actually get it.  And when we do, we have the perfect soundtrack heralding the ability of God’s love to set things right in our world.  Whether it’s We Need a Little Christmas rousing us to haul out the holly and get out of our selfish slump or Silent Night by candlelight reminding us to slow down and listen, to take a break in the midst of our zealous merrymaking.   

 “No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in.”  O Little Town of Bethlehem  

5. Classic Christmas Shows

I’m not talking about new commercial hogwash like “The Dog that Saved Christmas” (yes that’s a real movie).  I’m talking about tearing up when Linus gives his speech, or when the Grinch realizes that “Maybe Christmas” he thought, “means a little bit more.” Laughing at Buddy the Elf’s innocence or feeling the irony when Santa tells Ralphie, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Or what about Rudolph and Hermey realizing they’re a couple of misfits but that it’s okay, or Kris Kringle teaching the Winter Warlock to put one foot in front of the other?  Or Father Mouse encouraging Albert to give his heart a try, or Frosty exclaiming “Happy Birthday!"

      I admit that I love these movies because of the feel good happy endings, the belief in innocence and the sense of tradition and comfort.  But I also love them for their heartwarming message that while life is rarely perfect, we often find perfection, love, safety and happiness right where and when we need it.  Maybe it’s easier to find these things at Christmastime, but they are always there.   

4.   A Christmas Carol

      Except for the actual story of Jesus, no Christmas movie or story is a better example of God’s mercy and redemption, His relentless pursuit of even the least of these.  Since nothing seems to reach through Scrooge’s selfish, confused, miserable existence, the otherworldly must reach out. I couldn’t possibly say it any better than Dickens.   
“Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!
‘I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!’ Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed.  ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.  Oh Jacob Marley!  Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this.’” 
“Scrooge was better than his word.  He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father.  He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.  Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset.” 
 “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”
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(One of my favorite versions of A Christmas Carol) 

3. Christmas lights and Christmas Trees!!!!!

Jim Gaffigan has an interesting take on this one:
“I love our holiday traditions, we chop down a tree and put it in our living room.  Kinda sounds like the behavior of a drunk man. 
‘Honey why is there a pine tree in our living room?’ 
‘I like it, we’re gonna decorate it for Jesus.’
Some people get so into Christmas that they decorate their yards.  That seems completely backwards.  ‘Okay, chop down that tree, bring it in here.  Take all those lights, put them out there.’”   
Okay, so maybe it is a little bit off-kilter to bring a tree in the house, but to me it is the quintessential decoration—the lighted tree.  It’s more than just a decoration; it is Christmas itself.  Alive, unchanging, vibrant, bedecked with all our favorite things, bearing gifts of unselfishness and crowned with a bright star as a reminder.  There are crazier things than that, like the perfect, Almighty God being born in a stable.   

3. The Community “all-in”  Spirit

“Once in a year it is not thought amiss, to visit our neighbors and sing out like this, of friendship of love, good feelings abound, and peace and goodwill the whole year around”  ~Peter, Paul and Mary

      Toys for Tots.  Care packages for Soldiers and their families.  Food drives, coat drives, community dinners.  Adopt-a-family programs and angel trees.  Community Christmas tree lightings, visits from Santa and parades.  Decorations on Main Street and old gaudy garland hung up on parking lot lights. 

      In the midst of this sea of goodwill, it is tempting to be pessimistic and say that people should be like this all year.  It shouldn’t take a holiday to make people be kind to their neighbors or help those who are less fortunate.  AND YOU’RE RIGHT.  But in this increasingly selfish world, it takes something powerful to jolt people out of their own unawareness.  And I think it’s a miracle that people behave this way at all, even if it’s only at Christmas. While I wish that more people behaved this way all year long, I’m not depressed by it.  I see it as steps in the right direction, a Christmas miracle that we can work to carry into the other 11 months. 

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?" Bob Hope 

2. Anticipation

      Maybe you guessed it. I love the Christmas Season even more than Christmas itself.  *GASP* (now let’s not get carried away, of course I love Christmas and all that it means).  However, I love the anticipation of the Christmas season.  The wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ and plannin’ and dreamin’ is the magic of Christmas.  Realists, or cynics as I call them, might say that the anticipation is dangerous because Christmas may not live up to your high expectations.  Maybe you won’t get the present that you really wanted.  Maybe it won’t snow.  Maybe the lights won’t be bright enough.  Maybe your family won’t be as perfect as you remember or maybe they’ll be exactly as you remember them. 

      And maybe they’re right.  Maybe Christmas won’t be everything you hoped it would be, although I find that the glow of Christmas lights can cast an optimistic glow over the most dismal holiday.  But even if it doesn’t live up, we still have hope.  We know that the true anticipation is not for the presents or the food or the snow, but for the little baby in the manger who never disappoints, never fades and is never anything but exactly what we want and need.  

And it goes without saying that my favorite thing about Christmas is...

1. Jesus

That’s really what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.  Nothing can drown it out. 
You can’t sing Jingle Bells loud enough to drown out the angels singing Glory to God in the Highest.  You can’t get a tree big enough, lights bright enough or garland gaudy enough to outshine the simple manger.  You can’t watch enough Christmas shows and movies to forget about it.  You can’t bake enough or eat enough to satisfy yourself without it.  It couldn’t snow enough to cover it up.  Nothing can outshine His star or His message of hope, peace on earth and goodwill to men.   I can’t drown it out and I don’t want to drown it out.   
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew.  "Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!" Fred, A Christmas Carol
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