Yes, that time of year is upon us, when a pagan tradition of gathering together got superseded by a not so pagan tradition, got rewritten as a time of being nice to people and gathering together, became a time of selling a bunch of stuff for us to give to each other in a big gathering, and having a joyous time of it.
Yes, it's Christmas again. And whether your understanding is the whole eat, drink and be merry side of things, dressing up trees in the middle of a Northern Hemisphere winter (thank you wonderful Germanic peoples of times since!), something miraculous, getting all into the spirit of it or just being in company, I hope on this day you, your friends, and your family - no matter how close or distant, or broken as the case may be - are having a wonderful and very Merry Christmas.
Myself, I honestly don't know. A lot has changed for me recently, not just in coming to an understanding with and of myself, and not just in finding a new direction for my writing, but also in something very dear to me that has come to a close with uncertain future. And today, knowing I would wake up alone, I went looking for Christmas rather than mope about the house alone until going to share moments with my son.
I won't say this is an easy day for me. It's very hard, and in fact became very upsetting for me. I did not want to be alone or upset on a connective day best for gathering together in peace, love and happiness. And in the end, I'm not sure what I found, but I came to a very interesting conclusion.
Today, I went to a Christmas service up at the local Anglican. Not sure what to make of that, but for a brief moment I was a part of something, only alone because they did a big communion and I wasn't going to play a liar in a church any day of the week, let alone this one. But that aside, I found a very interesting juxtaposition - and a familiar story retold.
I'm sure your all familiar with a child born to a mother seemingly without a father being involved. Three dudes rocking up with some epic pressies because, behold, here was the son of a holy power - or as I found out today, the holy power itself, though I question the actual circumstances behind what I view to be myth. This joyous occasion because here was what is best viewed as a God's gift to the earth, himself in humble form, to connect with the people of the world, to share love, forgiveness and redemption. Fast forward a couple of years and beyond advice to pay taxes, we all know the story of what happened to said divine child and will have a look into it at Easter - but won't wonder how, when we know birth date and time exactly, but can't pin down the day or time of closure because it coincides with the lunar phases (how very pagan indeed).
All ranting aside, I'm sure you're also familiar with a more recent tale, about a distant, coldhearted, eternally unchanging and lets face it abrasively abusive numbskull who had a sudden epiphany of greatness and stepped into a new, joyous role in the world - having been visited by a spirit, received three gifts, seen his unredemptive fate and gone out to seek forgiveness and also to gather together with people of the world. And while we all know Ebeneezer Scrooge as a bitter man who learns to stop grinding his axes and make nice, I found his exact influence in Church this morning.
As is happened, today the priest intoned a sermon based on the true meaning of Christmas (formally a pagan midwinter ritual). In it, he lamented the modern Christmas as being created by Charles Dickens as a time of family. Not, the true meaning, being the joyous event that was God coming to earth in the body of his son, Jesus, to gather all the people together and share in his love, joy, forgiveness and redemption. That's right, God, "I am the Lord, I do not change," "Good, [Abraham] loves me because he fears me," the great being in the sky who tested a father by asking him to kill his own son (yeah, bit of a bad example), and liked the whole flood the earth, damn the creation deal, came unto the earth to be nice.
And it got me thinking. Hang on, that's basically Scrooge. An abusive authority figure with only damnation for the world, testing, casting people into meek subservience because he's in charge, who had his epiphany built on being disconnected with the world, and came down of his high horse to be nice. And what did he do? Spread good cheer, love and kindness, redeemed himself in the eyes of those around him, and did things to ask forgiveness for his wrongs.
And is it solely Christmas day for Ebeneezer to be nice in the world? No! It's only given as a Christmas Carol, but it could be any Carol. And given the darkness to which he was shown, to die bitter and alone, unloved and unmourned as result of his disconnection to what living and life is all about, Christmas is merely a plot device. The change of heart happens on this day because Christmas had to been known as a time of giving and receiving even before Dickens wrote this famous tale - WHAT ELSE DID HE BASE IT ON?
So not only did I hear a priest say that the incorrect modern version of Christmas, a time of gathering together, usually our families but often times our friends, was invented by Charles Dickens. Not only did I hear him badmouth a great story as nothing on the true meaning of Christmas. But I heard a priest tell exactly the same story from an earlier time.
I know this is becoming a rant, but today I distilled the whole message behind the birth of God on our earth as Jesus, and found in it again in the rebirth of Ebeneezer Scrooge as a good, giving man, both having lived disconnected from the world for their own particular reasons, which in my understanding seem to be crude bitterness with an abusive tendency - one an oftentimes angry, jealous deity, the other an oftentimes angry, bitter rich business owner. Both gave up the disconnect, they came in love, they lived among us and did good things. And though it isn't told, we know that Scrooge changed for the better for good. He reconnected with his family, connected with his workers and their families, and society, for good. The rest of his days.
As for the other guy, well, we've still got an enduring legacy, possibly for the end of all time - but perhaps not for an understandable reason. From either side of the debate, or from somewhere in between, we have a Christmas that is about sharing love and happiness, joy, forgiveness and redemption. Today, for all my sadness, I actually tried to do the last two for my most personal matter.
I don't know what the future brings, or what today really means for me. But what I do know, even for my misgivings and questions of religion, and where religion comes out swinging at me, and even though in my mind I can imagine a reality becoming a legend and then becoming a myth, this spirit exists now, deep in the past, and will exist deep into the future.
No, it isn't excess, some subverted saint who we used to have a feast for on the 6th (12 days before Christmas - and yes there's a song about that, too!) who got turned fat and red by the Coca Cola Company, and the presents need not necessarily occur - though how better to show it with a thoughtful gift.
It is a time of coming together and sharing love and joy. Of coming to forgive our yearly failings, to redeem ourselves in our loved one's eyes. Of being caring to the world in general, giving and receiving this wondrous bounty of humanity itself. To accept the world out there and step amongst it with the purpose to do GOOD in the world. But the trick I learned today, just as with the Catholic understanding and the Dickensian, is to do this all the year through.
Wherever you are, no matter your faith or lack thereof, I hope you are gathered together, you are loving, you are forgiving, and you are going to bring yourself and each other into the goodness of human existence. And if you are sad, and even if there are those in your life you cannot forgive for their heinousness, may you find peace and tranquility in your acceptance that they wronged you, not you doing wrong yourself. I hope none of you are alone, and at least have comfort in your day.
To one person in my life, I'm sorry and I forgive you. To my son, I'll love you forever. And to us all, Peace on Earth. Peace to Earth. Peace from Earth.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
All the best,