Christmas is the occasion for many of us to wax theological... even if we've never seen the inside of a seminary. Okay, let every poinsettia bloom. Deep meanings aren't limited to clergy. Write those letters. Tell all of us what's on your mind and God's. We'll read whatever is above the final salutation, Merry Christmas.
But... and boy, what a big but it is... please go easy with the harsh realities of this violent and indifferent world of ours. Yes, yes, the slaughter of the innocents, then and now. Yes, yes, the homeless family turned away at the door. Yes, yes, the craven appetite for more of everything in people who already have everything. Been there, said that.
Is it too much to ask for a couple of days of undiluted joy? Or must our festive rituals sound that God-awful mitigation I've winced at during a table grace while fried chicken stared me in the face, the prayer asking us to remember the poor little children who will go to bed hungry tonight... without fried chicken.
For me in this tinseled and piney moment, I want to hear Fanny and Alexander's uncle exclaim again, "Let us be happy when we are happy." I want my celebration to ring loud and clear with the benediction of that lame little boy on Scrooge's shoulder, "God bless us everyone!" I want to sing loud and unclear the refrain to "The First Noel," as a professor of theology taught me long ago, "No hell, no hell, no hell, no hell, born is the king of Israel." I want to hear anthems like the one last Sunday afternoon, an old French carol, in whose refrain were these words: "The world in silence waits the day When hope shall sings its triumph, And sadness flee away." I really like the fleeing away part.
I beg for this surcease of depressing thoughts only at the end of trying and trying really hard to fulfill the Lord's requirement of love, as defined in the Sermon on the Mount. Right and of course, no one, least of all me, ever manages to be utterly loving without some tinge of self-righteousness. God knows our frame. It's the trying, the striving, he's after, not the perfection. I do try to be generous. I do try to be forgiving. I do try to love my neighbors (even the unlovable ones) as myself. I do try to tamp down my violent emotions, which is easier for me at 83 than at 33 on the basketball court.
You get the picture. I think I might deserve, if only a tiny bit, a joyous evocation of the spirit unburdened by the cares of the world. A couple out of 365 would be nice.
Let's have a laugh or three. I mean, Rudolph may have a red nose, but I, not royalty or Nova Scotian, have a blue one, thanks to Reynaud's Syndrome. It shows up in all its azure glory whenever I step outside on a nippy day. I tolerate it, but I could wish that that facial appendage might learn to be as useful as the one wiggling on my bichon frise soul mate who can sniff out a treat rooms away and two shut doors.
Or Santa, like the Sears Santa in 1940, Mr. Rottner by name, my father's friend, who paid an unbelieving Bobby a visit Christmas Eve, sloshing into our living room (the one with the fireside mantle beside which my stockings were hung with care) in his red suit and fake whiskers bearing the distinct aroma of cheap whiskey. I wanted in that moment more than anything else that Mr. Rottner would leave quickly. Seventy-five years later I can wrap that memory in nostalgia with the thought about a lonely soul intent on making a little boy happy... even if he did just the opposite.
I took my computer to the doctor this morning. Not a virus, a fit of burping caused the visit. The doctor and his wife are Jews. But they had a small fake Christmas tree on a table in their living room. I asked how come, a Hanukkah bush maybe? They laughed and showed me a card they had produced for a friend. It was stylish. Brown paper, 4" x 7", folded in half, and opening it a single word in big letters, J O Y. I bought a ThinkPad and returned the burping CPU to my desk and, so far, whether out of fear of being abandoned or a rocky ride to the doctor's, the annoying pop-ups have greatly diminished.
Then I composed this unprayerful prayer for a Christmas without sad second thoughts... the better to God bless us everyone!