At 32 I still find myself uncomfortable with the experiential gap that exists between the nostalgic ideal of the traditional American Christmas and the reality that is experienced through broken hearts and empty stomachs on the downtown streets and the rural back roads in every part of America, let alone the world.
The truth is that all of the traditions, the flashy paper, the blinking lights, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Bing Crosby, have very little to offer us once the last of the presents are opened and the anticipation of Christmas vanishes like a vapor.
The true joy of Christmas can be found year-round by unfolding your arms, getting out of your chair, and making an effort for those who populate the neediest segments of our society. Lonely elderly people whose best days are long gone, children who live in homes with abusive and addicted parents, men and women who find themselves moving from one homeless shelter to the next. They, and so many others, embody the real Jesus that we all claim to celebrate through Christmas hymns, inflatable nativity scenes, and Christmas pageants.
If we are really serious about celebrating the birth of a king, then, just as the wise men did, we should seek him out and give him the gifts that we have to bring. Look up a homeless shelter, children’s home, hospital, or nursing home in your area and give the most valuable thing you can: your personal time and attention.
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40
A relevant post of mine from about a year ago: Christmas In Perspective
A poem that embodies this message by Musician/Poet Kevin Max:
Christmas dreams in a Dark City
hold on to your seat
as we fly past the other side
of the tracks
where wounded mouths
and festering stillness grow
like Evil plants led to bitter water
where wormwood takes root
turn the heater up
and find a good station
the one that plays Bing Crosby
the one that reminds us of
our tradition, our family plots
and store bought munitions
our pottery barn lamps
and wing backed chairs
our majestic walls
and our grand stairs
the very same stairs we climbed as children
and came down reverent on Christmas morning
to the smell of baked bread
and apple cider
and pine needles
where we rolled and laughed in the arms of grandparents
and endless boxes of gifts and paper
we know the feeling of Love.
shut down your conscience
as we drive through the Dark City
home to the unfortunates
the ones with bad teeth
and cracked clothing
filled with restless roaming
the gloaming of our lights
mark the sites on which they sleep
and the smell of impending doom
hold on to your seat
as we fly home.