Yes, there is truly Christmas and it still means something
Tomorrow is Christmas. It has become a huge secular celebration of giving, but seemingly more and more simply an anachronism for much of the American populous. I suppose it is both. Then again, perhaps it is still much more. At least it is so for me.
We frequently lament the fact that Christmas has become so commercialized. The drive of our consumer society has all but obliterated the peaceful time of family and reflection that this entire season once represented. The novelty of Black Friday deals has now overwhelmed Thanksgiving Day and carried on through Cyber Monday to ensure we are fully immersed in the digital world.
Sadly, both singular events have now stretched both forward and backwards in time so that November and December seem like an endless shopping spree as we are bombarded by the familiar concepts of “sneak preview” or “last chance holdover.” This is reminiscent of the rather pathetic “going out of business” sales that never seem to end, leaving one to wonder how long does it actually take to go out of business.
All of this is likely the inevitable consequence of the transformation of our society from a manufacturing nation that once built things to one that now merely provides “services.” Hard work led one to cherish times of peace and rest. It was a needed respite. That necessity was not lost in the transition from agriculture to industry, but does seem to have faded as we transition into a digital service economy.
Bluntly stated, Thanksgiving and Christmas may no longer be needed in much of America. If you can work from home, being home for the holidays is simply another day. If stuff is always at an “every day low price,” why wait for someone else to give it to you at Christmas…buy it now.
I don’t really know which is the chicken or the egg. Did the economic transformation necessitate our change in attitude or did “progressive” ideas shift cultural values that drive our desire for instant gratification. The need to accumulate things overwhelms all else. Clearly, our sense of spirituality has waned.
I can’t say that I was immune to such trends. Business and the drive for success certainly caused me to focus on the here and now. Likewise, I like stuff and a good deal is hard to resist, whenever it comes.
We all live in a world of rational (or irrational) human choices, for better or worse. The consequences of those actions leave a legacy of good and bad. Sometimes those choices follow and perhaps haunt us. They seem to condition everything we do going forward. It sits on you like thousand pound weight, influencing all our future actions. It creates a cycle that we often seem powerless to break, at least not of our own accord.
This is where the true meaning of Christmas shines through. It is a belief in the power of renewal…the ability to clean the slate and start again. That is something that we simply should not lose, even if we at some point discover that there is no Santa Clause. Some ideas simply are true even if we cannot touch them.
Why should one believe? Because it is the singular means to reconcile life. It is the only way to accept what we have done with all its negative consequences and not let it define the future. Because of what happened long ago, we are forgiven. It does not erase what we have done and the real hurt we may have caused, but it does allow you to start afresh.
I have now come to accept that there are things I simply cannot change, but I can move forward with the knowledge that life begins anew each day. The choices we make going forward stand on their own merit. The atonement for the past is in the hands of someone else.
And so in this Season, I hope all of you can find it in your own hearts to accept the gift that we have been given and begin tomorrow with the knowledge that it really is the first day of the rest of your life. Live it that way and be thankful. Merry Christmas.