I found this essay buried deep in the archives of my writings from years past. It was a summary of a discussion that I had with my (then) teenage daughter some thirty years ago. I hope you enjoy it…
“If there weren’t already a Christmas, the world would need to invent one.” That’s what I said to my daughter the other evening. Interested, she asked me why. I proceeded to tell her that I think people need some time during the year to have permission to do thoughtful, loving things for one another without people seeking an ulterior motive. We need a time when we can turn our hearts toward family gatherings, thoughtful communication with those we haven’t seen in a while, and a reason to reach out and wish good things to other people. We need a time to take a break from usually formal business relationships to infuse them with some warmth.
I have always been fascinated by the way people who usually have no interest in spiritual things take an interest in a high Christian holy day. Our culture has managed to appropriate this day as a “winter holiday” or just “the holidays”, teaming it with New Year’s Day to make a week-long celebration.
Around the Christmas season, we wish each other “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” in a world that has neither. We do this every year, and so far, it has not seemed to work. So, why do we do such things each year at Christmas? Well, it ties in with the idea stated above regarding the “invention” of Christmas. For some people, Christmas is no more than a manufactured holiday of the marketplace used to sell merchandise, promote a good feeling, and allow people to take a break from the humdrum of life. It is an attempt to bring an artificial peace, and feelings of warmth that aren’t really there. However, unless Christmas joy and meaning is an internal possession year-round, Christmas won’t have much real impact except for a three or four week stretch in early winter.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Christmas season, the warmth, the excitement, etc. I am also not completely cynical about the world’s view of Christmas. I’m glad people can find some hope and joy in this season. I also understand the reasons why people would invent another reason to have such a celebration, even if there were actually no Christmas. The circumstances around the celebration of Christmas can bring some temporary happiness and enjoyment, and that is a good thing.
However, the deeper satisfaction and real peace comes in the understanding of the original, the REAL reason for the celebration of Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, whose very coming was meant to bring real peace.
My hope for my dear readers is that you have a truly meaningful and joyous Christmas season, and that it last far beyond the “holiday season” that we set aside every year.