What is it about Christmas that makes so many people mad? I was tweaked today over a Christmas poem I wrote and planned to publish here tomorrow. It's theme was that Christmas is good for you because it encourages you to reach out to others. My critic asked what is the good of "reaching out" at Christmas if you didn't do it the rest of the year. Then, with a snear that was palpable, he dismissed what I wrote as "cute" and said it would appeal to the 'overly sentimental'. Okay, so what's wrong with that? Furthermore, what is wrong with dragging yourself up once a year, taking out your 'goodwill toward men', running it around the block and giving it a little exercise anyway?
Because we hunger and thirst, we are creatures that eat and drink. We do not eat and drink all the time, only when we are thirsty and hungry. So, in deference to this human need, we schedule meals so that we make sure to take in that necessary nourishment regularly to maintain our physical health.
Holidays and sabbaths are another scheduled indulgence of human need, like meals and snacks. We need to hang with our friends and family. We apparently need to party. Such celebrations feed, not just our bodies, but also our souls. I don't think it's an accident that most holidays are associated with some kind of foot or feasting. Our souls need to be fed in the same way our bodies do.
So, what is so wrong with scheduling regular times to feed the soul? What's wrong with occasionally partaking of a little good cheer, peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. I cannot think of a better reason to make a little effort to reach out to your fellow man than because its Christmas. There ought to be a holiday that celebrates giving!
Cynics clame it's about greed and "what you get". That's a lie straight up, except maybe for little kids who are, after all, unprincipled selfish barbarians by nature. For most of us who have matured a bit, Christmas is all about giving. Don't believe me? Try this experiment. Don't give any Christmas presents to anyone this year. Go empty-handed to every holiday gathering and watch what happens. Don't apologize or make excuses. Just don't bring anything.
You will not be turned away from a single party I guarantee. You will likely receive lots of gifts as well. It's also likely, someone will shove a little something extra under the tree for you, thinking you must have fallen on hard times. Nothing inspires generosity, especially at Christmas like someone in trouble. We need to exercise our giving bones once in a while. It's an instinct that is built into us, like breathing. We want to give. We need to give. Christmas allows us to do it all out.
One of the best Christmases of my life was the first one where I had a job (a paper route) and was able to buy things for my family for Christmas. I'll never forget it. To this day, Christmas is like sticking my giving batteries into the socket for a bit. The recharge I get from this season carries me through the rest of the year.
In the same way, my weekly sabbath rest renews my spirit and recharges my relationship with God every 7 days. That doesn't mean I don't have a relationship with God the rest of the time. It just means I take a little special time for that relationship once a week.
It's like having sex for a married couple. Periodically coming together like that recharges a relationship. People also need to come together in groups to celebrate. It recharges families and communities. Without holidays, families die; communities wither.
I agree with you that if you don't maintain an attitude of goodwill toward men all year it's pretty much meaningless to fake it just for Christmas. But if you truly do try to keep it up all year (as I do), what's the harm in celebrating goodness, joy, generosity and peace on Earth good will toward men?
And what the heck is wrong with being sentimental? Sentiment leads us to perform acts of kindness toward our fellow man. The nicest people I know are the kind that get teary over movies and children dressed as squash singing about the food pyramid. I've been known to shed tears over a McDonald's commercial myself - ooh, their advertising guys are good....
At the same time I've given more hours to the cause of helping people with disabilities, seniors, low income families and abused and disturbed kids than I can begin to count. Don't tell me sentiment is phoney or only gets dragged out at Christmas time like an Easter bonnet or those snow skis we keep threatening to use "someday". Are we become so cynical that a bunch of fat old soft-hearted schmucks sitting around singing carols and giving gifts to people somehow threatens the new world order?
Do we so badly need to be hip that a little holly, hot chocolate and sentiment becomes a preposterous (and somehow dangerous) thing that must be sneared at lest sentimentality break out like an epidemic of the mumps? If that's the case, I'm glad I'm getting old. I really don't want to watch this sad old world turn into that bitter cynical place it seems headed toward. When I see my fellow man dismiss as sweet and warm and wonderful a celebration as Christmas, when they call it an "illusion of harmony", I despair for this current crop of human beings.
Harmony is what we make of it. I may disagree with my fellow man over politics or religion (and frequently do as readers of this weblog know). That's inevitable when you have creatures as diverse and creative as human beings. That doesn't mean it's not nice for one little bit of the year to stop and allow ourselves to get a little overly sentimental about the ideal of peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.
So Merry Christmas to all of you tonight in the hope that each and every one, who is of a mind to, finds something to get a little misty-eyed over........and at the risk of offending those of Uncle Ebenezer's party who may be reading this with their noses wrinkled up and a scowl on their lips, God bless us every one.
That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoe-making and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse. -Mark Twain