Saturday, June 26, 2010

Christmas in June

(…or All Year ’Round for that Matter…)

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the time of year, but forget what truly is at the heart of Christmas. That’s why it’s good to ‘revisit’ Christmas when you’re about as far away from it as you can get…in late June. Today is June 26. Do you know that today marks the “Christmas midpoint” in the year? That means that there are about as many days since Christmas as there are until we celebrate it again. In other words: “Only 182 shopping days until Christmas!”

Sounds crazy, right? Of course it does. If you’re like most people, the thought of Christmas hasn’t even popped into your head. If you’re like me and you get about a billion mail-order catalogues, you may have already received a Christmas one. I haven’t yet- just some Autumn ones so far- and they’re bad enough! But they’re coming- and soon. I do have one very organized friend who begins shopping the day after Christmas and is done by about August. This is the time of year when she begins addressing her cards. But for most of us, something about beginning our preparations too early strikes a sour note. We don’t want to have to think of that hullabaloo just yet, thank you!

Another interesting thing is that during the Christmas season, we seem to care more for others and we seem to make a more concerted effort to express those feelings. At least it seems that way with all the cards, gifts-giving, donations to those who are ‘less fortunate’; and the extra volunteering of our time, ringing bells and serving soup. Think about it: we would much rather buy a disadvantaged family a turkey with all the fixins at Thanksgiving or Christmas, even though they might be helped more with the simple and understated gift of a bag of groceries or Wal-Mart gift card in May or February. But that’s when no one thinks of the jobless, homeless, husbandless and fatherless.

We also tend to touch one another more: kissing and hugging our co-workers and neighbors is totally okay from mid-November to the beginning of January- but after that…not so much. We smile more, and everyone tends to be full of anticipation and good will. We say to each other things like: “Gee, I wish it could be like this all year ’round!”

But then, as quickly as all that good stuff came…it disappears. For some reason, we act almost as though those kind expressions and feelings of good-will and generosity are seasonal and that their time is over. Like the over-fed mammals that we are, we begin a period of social hibernation as we withdraw again to a spirit that isn’t nearly so generous and warm. It almost seems as if we’ve gotten exhausted from working so hard to generate all that holiday warmth and good cheer. As quick as that, the spirit we so long to hang onto slips away from us.

It feels sad, yet also somewhat good, to return to some sense of simplicity as we recuperate from the festivities and celebrations. We are relieved that the frenetic activity has ceased, yet we long for that “feeling of Christmas”…that sense of community that we have gotten from the giving, sharing, and communing with one another during the holidays.

How did we get started with the idea that we only have to be who we are called to be in Christ for a period of a few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s? Seems kind of crazy to think that no one really thinks it’s crazy to celebrate the holidays as we do. To celebrate Christ’s birthday, we participate in all kinds of overindulgence: we eat too much, spend too much, and we push ourselves to our emotional and financial limits. And then we pay for it. Racked up credit cards, and that feeling of utter let-down in January are some of they ways we experience Christmas’s aftermath. We vow not to get so carried away next year. We promise ourselves that we will be more even-keeled, that we will steward our resources better.

Suppose we actually followed through on that pledge? Suppose we cut back on some of the physical aspects and started right now to spread out the spiritual side of Christmas to every month of the year? The truth is that there are those around us who need our presence every month of the year, not merely our presents during one month. It would be nice to keep that “Christmas Spirit” with us all through the year. But even more heart-warming is the idea that we can have Christ’s Spirit with us…always.

What if we extended our “Christmas posture” to all our neighbors now, rather than only in that brief holiday window? What if we did it in “too dark and cold to leave my fireside February,” or in “too hot to leave my AC August” too? Would those within our spheres of influence get a glimpse of the Christ-child?

Let’s do it right this year by living a FULL YEAR of celebrating Christ’s life of kindness and generosity, so that in December we can make our next celebration of Christ’s birth a worthy conclusion to a the year.

adapted from After We Put Christmas away…by Dean Hughes

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