For as long as I can remember, the Christmas season has always resonated something deep within me.
As a boy in northern Minnesota, it was Christmas programs at school and church, the music on the radio, the Christmas television specials, the family gatherings, and yes, the presents. Church, music, TV, and family were things I had all year round, but for the month of the December all was touched and heightened by the the spirit of the season. Even the weather emphasized the mood. First, it would hard for Santa’s sleigh to operate on grass. But more than that, the cold and early dusk made the activities going on inside all the more precious and warm.
As I recognized then, I still see today: this season does something special to our culture. I think it helps that Christmas is preceded by Thanksgiving which primes the Christmas spirit by regenerating our gratitude. Once fueled, we are ready to turn gratitude into generosity.
Generosity is evident everywhere and most evident by the Christmas custom of gift-giving. (With age, we morph from being thrilled to receive, to being excited to give and see the thrilled recipient. I can’t wait to see my grandmother open up her new laptop computer we all chipped in for. Shhh. Don’t tell her!)
More than just our loved ones, though, generosity spills over to strangers as well. I love The Salvation Army bell-ringers. Their clangs mixed with that early dusk are like the bells of a buoy: alerts of concern for one’s safety on an open, cold sea. Seeing the bell-ringer all buoy-like–rocking and rigid to stay warm–exemplifies the efforts we make this time of year to help others and symbolic of those out there in the world who truly are alone and cold.
Going deeper, I believe that generosity is just the branch of the Christmas spirit tree. The trunk and the roots are love and life.
Now an adult, and inspired by this spirit, a result is a shift from self. I feel my ego dwindle as I hear Christmas songs such as “Do You Hear What I Hear?”. I worry less about money, toys, women, status, accomplishment. I don’t get as angry at other’s actions or opinions. I just want to be good, and I just want to exist in this state of mind and spirit where the richness of life flows through me, this spirit which nourishes life and makes the world better.
We’re a better people because we have this beautiful time of year to honor and practice this way of life.
Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to make it to my brother’s church where my nephew was a Wiseman in the Christmas program. Little six year old Robert had his first solo–a verse in “Away in a Manger”. You know I considered staying home to work on my book?! Silly me. How easy is it to forget that without moments like the one I witnessed last Sunday, there’s little reason to write a book. What is my life and my work if it isn’t motivated by the spirit of love and life? It ends up being a hollow effort.
Here’s to your Christmas season, a time when any hollow cavities we may have are enriched and made full by that which truly matters. Here’s to the Christmas spirit–the human spirit–and the plateau we attain during this precious time of year.
Here’s what I would have missed out on had I stayed home:
to new plateaus,