I have for a long time now fully embraced Christmas and I make no apologies for this. Of course, I am as mindful as others that Christmas is not always an easy time for some people. Indeed, some people find the pressures of the culture of merriment and gifting overwhelming; some find the joy they are told they are supposed to feel quickly overtaken by painful memories or present difficulties, tragedies or evils; and some remain unconvinced of the possibility of God becoming incarnate or an incarnate God who has remained invested in us. For me the very human experience of suffering and hurt; the dangerous muting of delight through mindless consumerism; and the presence of doubt and the ‘still-not-knowing’ that can accompany an inquiring heart are absorbed, not denied, by Christmas.
For me it is like rowing down the misty river of time and realizing that the borders of suffering, tragedy, and unmet longing meet the borders of light, meaning, and hope. These borders mingle so that over time one is not able to distinguish where one begins and another ends. This merging does not happen all at once like it did on the birth of Jesus. No, it usually takes us time and reflection to begin to see how these borders merge. At least this is how I have come to understand the mystery and spirit of Christmas.
This understanding is something I have come to after many experiences of Christmas. Mostly, I remember my own family Christmases celebrated in various places growing up in a military family. But it also includes my meeting people over my many years of pastoral work that gave witness to the importance of the Christmas spirit. Finally, the scriptural retelling and liturgical celebration of the Christmas story as found within my Christian tradition has shaped my understanding. My memories, the stories of others, and the story of Christmas are beginning to blend together. Oh, I can still tell the stories individually, but that would not capture the richness that fills my understanding now as I ponder Christmas in my heart. I suppose it is the cumulative affect of Christmas that continues to draw me to hope and wonder.
May Christmas be for you a moment of hope and wonder where you notice the edges of life merging. And may you know in the mingling of all that is in this world of ours a sublime grace that will guide you around the bend in the river and throughout the New Year.