It's just days before Christmas and again I realize that it has come upon me fast. Things to do, things not yet finished, the thrash that this time of year can be is here in full force.
I have enjoyed this Advent a lot. The making-room-in-your-heart part of the season. In lieu of checking off items on the to-do list, I have been spending time with people I care about. I have been knitting chemo caps. I have been reading a good and racy novel to a dear friend a chapter a week. I've been doing satisfying work at my job. I have learned a great deal about myself and those I love. I have enjoyed time with my kids. I have kind of bucked the trend.
Last night, I had a young man appear on my doorstep. "Good evening. I'm with the National Atheist Society and I have a brief survey I'd like to conduct with you."
"Uhm...no. No thank you. I support what you are doing, but I'm not interested in answering questions tonight."
No. I am not an atheist, but I am probably alot more closely aligned with him theologically than with some of my other Christian brothers and sisters.
Would he have asked me if I am "ready for Christmas?" It's a common conversation thread at this time of year, like chatting about the weather. I choose to answer this one carefully when asked of me and it depends on who is doing the asking. Do you mean that all my cards have been mailed, my shopping done, presents wrapped, cookies baked, house immaculate and looking like a Better Homes and Gardens spread?
The follow up question as we return to life after the holiday is, "Did you have a good Christmas?" Does that mean that everything went exactly how it was planned? All Norman Rockwell, everyone minded their p's and q's and everyone was delighted with their gifts and we were with ours?
Here's the thing. That place within us that is yearning to be touched isn't touched with gifts and food and stuff and cookies and reindeer and Santa.
As a child of the 60's, I grew up with "A Charlie Brown Christmas." In fact, in my copy of the book, there are notes written for me when I read the passage from Luke 2 as a little girl during a Christmas program. Charlie Brown is increasingly frustrated, depressed, and disillusioned about the commercialization of Christmas. Yes, even in 1965 when things were supposedly, simpler. He is about at the breaking point when he turns to his friend Linus and asks, "What is Christmas all about?!"
And Linus replies, reciting these ancient lines from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter two.
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
"So there you have it, Charlie Brown. That's the true meaning of Christmas."
Wait. That's it? No Christmas cards? No spritz cookie recipe? No obligatory obligations? No gift buying/wrapping/opening? No watching my beloved, "White Christmas?" But it isn't Christmas without these things!
Or is it?