The Christmas spirit, like most truly important things, is difficult to define. It means more than just being ‘aware’ of Christmas, just as it means more than waiting for gifts or looking at glittering decorations. (Delightful as these things are!) No, the Christmas spirit is a shared moment when we open our shut-up hearts and pause for a moment to realize the subtle, quiet miracle of our lives.
It is also that moment, when, during the long calendar of the year, we make the conscious decision to be happy. Yes, our jobs are irritating, our bank accounts low, our presidential prospects dire, the climate is changing. But … none of that really matters for just a few scant, magical weeks in December. We are still here, the potential for fun and joy (two different things) remains, and we are free to delight in the time we have left and that the pleasures of having one-another has not yet been closed off. It’s the time when we’re reminded that it’s possible that our souls may indeed be as eternal as Christmas itself, and that our lives are, ultimately, what we make of them.
Space, scientists tell us, is vast, and life seems to be quite rare. The conditions for life are exacting – a few subtle alterations in conditions millions of years ago, and the Earth would be as dead as Mars. The sheer improbability of our very existence illustrates a staggering triumph against near incalculable odds. Honestly and objectively recognizing this fact can lead only to endless wonder … In the face of such mystery, how can I – how can anyone – fail to be happy?
And, if life is so rare, how can we fail to recognize that each and every one of us is special? Are we perfect? Certainly not! Troubled? Quite possibly. Unique in all the universe? Most definitely! Christmas, again, draws the map to follow: we must cherish ourselves and one another.
It is at this time of year particularly that Your Correspondent finds it impossible not to believe in the invisible world. Just as an ant is innocent of knowledge of the human beings that teem around it, we are unaware of the great mystery that surrounds us. Christmas plugs us directly into great channels of mystery and wonder, leading to a realization of the simple, abundant joy of creation.
The tradition of Christmas has been a boon to Your Correspondent that is impossible to measure. Its celebration has made me part of a millennia-long tradition of finding light in the darkness, warming the human heart, and celebrating the wonders of existence. Just as the food and drink of the season underscore the pleasure of our physical, corporeal selves, the Christmas spirit nourishes and replenishes our emotional, philosophical and spiritual selves.
For the past several years, I have shared with readers that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the central text of my holiday. In view of the above, I can find no better way of closing this year’s message than with the closing lines of this, perhaps the greatest of all novels:
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 knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; 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! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!