“Christmas!” Just saying the word brings a flood of memories panoramically dancing through my head – -cookies baking, snowman making, sleigh bells ringing, carolers singing, mistletoe hanging, church bells clanging.
Fa la la la la la la la la!
Hey, wait a minute, this sounds like a song I’ve heard. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember any Christmas that idyllic. Maybe the reason so many people are depressed after Christmas is because we’ve been hypnotized by all those dreamy romantic songs before Christmas. We hear them while shopping, eating in the restaurants, driving in the car and while waiting what seems like “forever” for a real voice on the other end of the phone.
We’ve mindlessly heard all the phrases and something inside says, “This is the way it should be.” Like Clark Griswald in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation we desperately try to capture the magic of Christmas; only to have it slip through our fingers year after year. This year it’s time for a reality check.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” This phrase brings back memories from way back, 1953 to 1957 to be exact in Wallins Creek, Kentucky. The open fire was our heating system and Jack Frost nipped at our nose and toes on the walk to the outhouse in the middle of the night.
“Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir and folks dressed up like Eskimos.” We sang by the fire alright because there was no heating system, we didn’t have a television and toys were few. We dressed in layers like Eskimos just to keep warm in a small home with no insulation.
“They know that Santa’s on his way. He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh.” I believed it as a child of four and my parents did their best to make it happen. My deaf Uncle Monroe dressed up like Santa and brought us each a toy. The tree was decorated and lit, the sound of walnuts being cracked for fudge, and the smell of freshly peeled tangerines filled the air. That was as magical as it ever got. It went downhill from there.
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light. From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.” Right, out of sight. NOT! Dad’s drunk and in a funk, Christmas dinner’s on the floor mixed with broken glass and more.
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, make the Yule-tide gay, from now on our troubles will be miles away.” Right again. Your daughters broke down on the Pennsylvania turnpike, Grandma and Grandpa are stuck at the airport and you don’t know what to do.
“Enough reality! I can’t take anymore. Let me have my fantasy,” you say? Well, you’re not alone. According to Lev Grossman in his Time Magazine article, “Feeding on Fantasy,” we as Americans are into fantasy more than ever. Grossman wrote, “Change and technology are so pervasive a part of daily life that for the most part there’s no more magic to it anymore. The magic would have to come from fantasy.”
I seem to remember a Christmas story that’s not a fantasy but reality filled with wonder and magic -- Shepherds tending, angels singing, wise men seeking, virgin birthing, and God came near. God became a baby, Emmanuel, “God with us.” Not some mythical character from “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter’s Secret Chamber;” but a human who is fully man and fully God sent to save mankind from himself and fill us with His power. The power is not in a ring or some mystical incantation but the Spirit of Christ living in and through us. He is a transforming power to make us someone we could not be without him. In Christ we have the power to super-abound and more than cope in life’s most difficult circumstances.
This Christmas we can retreat into the fantasy world and come out depressed when reality hits. Or, we can receive the Christ of Christmas and live in the reality of His power to face life with all its disappointments and cruelties. We can celebrate with songs of worship, helping the poor, remembering his birth, gathering as family and friends to share His love along with our decorating, buying and gift giving.
I still enjoy the songs of Christmas and I am dreaming of a white Christmas. But, if it doesn’t come, which is rare in Delaware, I’ll still have the Christ of Christmas and the magic He brings. So, “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”