I have wonderful memories of childhood Christmases – pajamas and rare hours of togetherness without a television playing. Christmas is family and warmth and presents and too much delicious food. It’s indulgence during scarcity: you eat jam long after the bushes that grew the berries have gone dormant. It’s a time to remind ourselves that death doesn’t last, that sweetness and ecstasy are not off the table just because it’s bare.
My husband and I decided years ago to separate Jesus from Christmas. The pressure of the holidays is enough without also trying to figure out how to match the materialism to the message of Advent. So instead of worrying about doing it right (a severe concern for me over most of my life about most things), we decided to just enjoy the season for it’s pretty lights and gift exchanges and nostalgia.
And there is a thread through all of human history which is easier to tug on when I’m not concerned with making candy canes into bible tracts. That people since the beginning of people have marked this time of year with some sort of celebration, some show of grace and gratitude. That we as a species are aware of our suffering, are brought to the edge of our existence and stare into a dark void and then have no choice but to muster up the courage to keep living, keep reproducing and building things is all So Much. It is a big ask from whoever is running things to expect us not to curl up and rock ourselves into long sleeps and wish to die.
But we don’t give up, quite the opposite. By some mysterious wonder, some accidental exposition, we move forward and fall in love and have babies and weep over hockey games because men we don’t know wore the colors we like and got the piece of rubber on one side of a slab of ice more times than the other men we don’t know. We are an absurd species, but we press on in absurdity full ahead to Beauty.
Because the truth is Jesus isn’t separate from Christmas. Jesus isn’t separate from anything. The truth is we are full of it. We wrestle with empirical dread, but there is a spark in all of us that insists and persists when we look into the void. The truth is any notion of curling up is bullshit because even when the world is dark, even when the nights are long, even when the cold bites and we wonder if the sun is leaving us for good, the light we are so desperate for is here with us, Emmanuel.