: Snow is falling here now; the earth is white against the dark. The children are in bed with their dreams. Santa is on his way. The church service is over. The candles are dark. The presents are out. The stockings are hung. There’s beautiful music still on TV. And there’s still a little wine left in my glass.
And I sit here wondering whether it feels like Christmas yet.
I think back to last Christmas and know that much has changed. Last year, so close to September 11th, I was a mess and only now do I know how much of a mess I was. A few weeks ago, I took our son to one of our holiday traditions: a road production of A Christmas Carol. It’s warm yet cheesy. Still, last year, at every emotional cue, I was practically weepy. This year, I was just me again: stiff stuffed into those little theater seats. Last Christmas eve, I had the same problem in our church service during practically every hymn: they tore into the soul. This Christmas eve — tonight — I was simply worried about finding my bass notes in those same hymns.
Is Christmas returning to normal or have I grown a callous around my soul?
Last Christmas, I mourned the 3,000 dead of September 11th and feared for the future. I wrote in this weblog (in archives that have mysteriously disappeared):
So 2,000 years ago, we are led to believe, strife and suffering in the Holy Land led God to send his only son to Earth to wash away our sins and give mankind the hope of a new beginning.
Now, exactly 2,000 years later, at this Christmas, there is still strife and suffering in the Holy Land and it has spread the world around, escalating to nothing less than a World War against terrorism and evil now being fought at our door.
Yes, this is a depressing thought — not exactly the gift you were hoping for this Christmas.
It would seem as if we’ve made no progress in all this time. In fact, it would seem as if we’ve made things even worse. And if we are left still with sin and suffering and without hope, then perhaps God also made a mess of things or did what He did in vain. It can look like that.
But stop there. Now is the time — if there ever were a time — to look at what Christmas actually means. And I come to believe that Christmas is not about the light — the star, the gifts, the warmth, the virtue — but instead about the contrast, about the dark around it. Christmas is about the need for hope among the hopeless, virtue amidst sin, light in the darkness….
So Christmas is not lessened this year because it is a bad year. No, precisely because it is a bad year, Christmas is more needed, more meaningful. For Christmas is a time for the future — for our children and for hope.
This Christmas, we mourn the death of my wife’s father, a wonderful man sorely missed.
I don’t know whether I’m having trouble igniting Christmas because of that or because of that callous grown over the last year and a few months.
I’ll probably know by next year.
Right now, I just look forward to tomorrow morning as much as my children do, in their dreams. I can’t wait to share in their joy, the greater gift than our presents.
For Christmas is still Christmas for them.
I hope Christmas is still Christmas for you and yours.
Merry Christmas, my friends.