Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some Thoughts About Christmas

I love Christmas, and it's only partly because I Believe.

I love Christmas because it brings out the best in most people. When people think about Christmas, they forget about themselves for a little while and concentrate on other people. When people think about Christmas, they forget about making themselves happy and concentrate on making other people happy.

For just that little bit of time, one month out of twelve, one night out of 365, we are all the persons we were meant to be.

There are many aspects to Christmas, and I believe each of us has a role to play.

The Star gives people a destination, a place to call home, a key to the map we all have in our hearts but seldom use. Stars point the way that others might find Christmas, too.

The Magi know exactly who they adore, and they go to a lot of trouble to make sure their Adored knows this. They travel a long way, relying on that Star to show them their destination, and they're not afraid to stop and ask for directions, unfortunately. They bring Gifts of Great Joy, but what many people don't realize is that their seemingly frivolous gifts of gold, frankencense and myrrh are also gifts of great monetary value. Remember, this little family is going to be doing a lot of traveling soon, all the way to Egypt, and they don't have any money or relatives along the way; in fact, it's a hush-hush quickie of a trip. It will be a life-saver to have something valuable to use along the way for food, housing, new sandals-when-theirs-are-worn-out-from-walking, etc. It would also be nice, and make this family with its new immigrant status, feel at home to be able to use the familiar oils and spices for worship. The medicinal value of myrrh would be of great help, too.

The Shepherds are those who heard the word and came running. Once they got there, it's not made altogether clear exactly what function or use they were; they're usually portrayed as just standing around staring. But the world has always been, and still is, in great need of people who believe when there really isn't any evidence that would make belief logical; if not for them, there would be nothing new under the sun. The Shepherds are examples of faith in action.

The Angels are the ones who found out the news from the very One with whom the buck stops. Once trusted with the message, they wasted no time but went immediately out to spread the word. Angels are not ladies or gentlemen with long golden hair, long white robes and majestic Angel-like wings, who sing a lot and bear good tidings of great joy all day long. Sometimes, Angels are called upon to deliver bad news, or wrestle with someone who's being stubborn, or plant themselves firmly in place to prevent people from going any further. When the need is strong, Angels fight. Angels also have rank, and distribution of power. When God says fly, Angels fly. They don't form committees and ask a lot of questions and seek union intervention when they've already sung and protected people all day and now they're being asked to deliver a message to some knocked-up unmarried kid. They just do it. They do it because it's the right thing to do. Angels are glad to be of service and honored to be trusted with delicate matters.

Sheep are supposed to be absolutely the stupidest of all mammals; they're so dumb, they dig their paths into long trenches too high to get out of, because they stick to a thing until they pretty much wreck it. And yet, they were smart enough to stick around that stable when the Shepherd brings them there, even though Sheep don't do well in new surroundings and often run away. Some of us are Sheep: not the stupid kind, but the kind of Sheep who, even though afraid and on new turf, look around and decide to give it a try because there's a good feeling about this place.

There are a lot of jokes made about Donkeys, but back in those Bible-days, in those Bible-lands, if you didn't have a Donkey, you weren't going to be able to go any place very far away. Donkeys are humble and very necessary; they give mobility to others. They carry heavy loads so we don't have to.

And, of course, a Donkey who refuses to do his/her part in the universe is simply an Ass. We all know people who are like THAT. Sadly, they have always existed and always will.

Little Drummer Boys are generally thrust into a situation for which they are not prepared, and really know nothing about how to help in a practical manner. They do, however, wish to be of service, so they do what they can, even if it's something that doesn't really contribute monetarily or physically in any way. Their existence gives the rest of us reason and cause to pause for a moment and remember that Music and Grace and Generosity exist; they are real, true things, and just as real and true as fear, and hunger, and the disorientation of being unwanted and hunted. The contribution of a Child can mean much, and the Little Drummer Boy reminds us that we are all children inside, and must not be afraid to offer what we are capable of offering.

The Innkeeper was probably not a bad person. He was simply a businessman, and no doubt really didn't have any more rooms. If one's inn is full to bursting, what else could he have done but turn the last people to ask, away? And he didn't have to offer these dusty travelers his stable, either; his doing that shows that he had a good heart. The Innkeeper is usually lamblasted by Christmas lovers as a selfish, money-loving jerk who knowingly turned away the Holy Family, but if we stop to really think about it, the Innkeeper meant well, and even though his inn was full, he allowed these strangers to camp out in his barn. Many of us are Innkeepers, preferring the paying customers to the charity cases. Then again, if the sign outside the Holiday Inn says "No Vacancies," what is the desk clerk supposed to do? And what modern Innkeeper would let these tired, dirty strangers stay in his garage, for free? History is too hard on the Innkeeper. And yet, we are all supposed to assume that any stranger just might be an Angel or other celestial being, testing our hospitality. Such tests have been ongoing for thousands of years. Most of us would fail a hospitality test these days. But I believe we were all meant to be Innkeepers: people who would, if every room in our homes were full, offer a stranger the barn.

In the words of Charles Dickens, from the lips of Bob Cratchit, comes this, one of the best philosophies of Christmas ever written: "But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'"

And so do I.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:58 PM | |


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