Although it was 45 F, it was a cold, drizzly day in Washington DC. The colder temperature came from my growing realization that my football team will not see post season action. We were also saying good bye to Mom & Dad Flynn as they headed back to the warmth of Florida. They were on the silver streak taking off from Union station. Well, the train was late leaving New York, and so we had time to take in our first whiff of Christmas. The large lighted wreathes, the tremendous lighted Christmas tree decorated with US and Norwegian flags, the volunteer musicians added a great rush of holiday sentiment.
Christmas will forever remain the season of the heart. Come with me into my room of nostalgia flooded with sun beams of memory moments that cause a prolonged smile to appear on my face. That warm smile is however melding away; you see the reality of our dire situation weights upon me. You know – the sagging economy, the wars, the Walmart trampling, and who can ignore the Mumbai tragedy?
I will need to choose how Christmas 2008 will be.
Christmas is not only a season of the heart, but a season of high expectation. Dickens shared well when he shared that each season of time comprise the worst of times, and the best of times. How will I navigate these two spaces? Help! Then like magic, on the screen of my mind three dominant personalities of Christmas flash with plasma clarity- Santa, Savior, and Scrooge! These are not my ghosts of Christmas past, but real characters that have shared my Christmases past.
They are for real as I hear echoes of:
Ho, ho, ho!
Hallelujah, glory to God in the highest!
My first encounter with Scrooge came in high school. The scenes that are riveted in my mind especially the movie version. Scrooge visited by The Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him the happiness of his nephew’s middle-class social circle and the impoverished Cratchit family. The latter have a young son (Tiny Tim) who is lame, yet the family still manages to live happily on the pittance Scrooge pays his clerk. When Scrooge asks if Tim will die, the ghost is quick to use Scrooge’s past unkind comments against him –”they had better do it now, and decrease the surplus population”.
The ghost also warns him of the evils of Ignorance and Want. As the spirit’s robe is drawn back Scrooge is shocked to see these two aspects of the human psyche suddenly manifest before him as vicious, terrifying, little children, who are more animal than human.
Will this scene inform my Christmas giving to the needy?
Then, there is Santa Claus, Father Christmas, is described as bringing gifts on Christmas Eve. Santa says that he lives in a land of perpetual snow. He makes a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior. that he delivers presents, including toys, to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and sometimes coal or sticks to the naughty children, in one night; and that he accomplishes this feat with the aid of elves who make the toys, and flying reindeer who pull his sleigh.
Maybe I was too bright for my own good. I just could not understand the physics of his amazing feats. Why did I not see any water of the melted snow after his arrival in Jamaica? As a parent, I also refused to give some stranger credit for my doings, so my kids were not subjected to his decisions.
However, will I be a agent of cheer this season?
Finally, Savior! I can still recite the Annunciation that was mandatory learning in high school. Playing a shepherd dressed in an adult gown, and carrying a stick as a shepherd’s rod, while singing at a manager scene still echoes in my head. Singing is to myself as fine cuisine is to McDonalds. But I love the hallelujah chorus, so I have invited myself to pick up choirs just to make a joyful noise. The incarnation was indeed a historical and unrepeatable event with permanent consequences.
Music has been one means others have used to expressed their wonder. Well, here is my humble contribution:
Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel.
No hell, No hell, born is the King of Israel.
How will I again marvel at the Word becoming flesh, an eternal God, entering time and space and taking on the tiny confines of a baby’s skin?
This wondrous story also reminds me of the actions not just of shepherds, but of wisemen.
They brought remittances that was critical in the holy family’s survival.
This is a season of contemplation if the season is going to be meaningful or a season of the hectic pulled by the ritual of Black Friday – my choice.
What planning are you making beyond the mundane to make this season a treasure for your future?