Tidings of Comfort? Oh, and Joy
I think the operative word here might be comfort. The holiday season is often described in glowing terms, but comforting isn't one of them. When is the last time you were comforted by rearranging your heavy furniture to make room for a tree? Was it comforting lugging the tree up the steps into the house? How about cleaning up tons of pine needles after the thing is finally in place? Don't worry, you'll find them all eventually, usually in June.
Of course, there are the boxes of ornaments to be carried up from the basement or down from the attic. And you'll have to make a trip out into the rain in order to buy a new stand, since the old one doesn't fit the new tree. While you're out, maybe you'll get to do some shopping along with 800 million other people doing the same thing. This is also your chance to indulge in the age-old and time-honored tradition of driving around in endless circles looking for a parking place at the mall. Comfort. A precious gift at any price.
I admit that I approach the holidays with a mixture of dread and excitement and my hubby will often admonish me "not to get my tinsel in a tangle." What I dread most is the frantic hustle-bustle of the season, the commercialism, the disgruntled husbands, the cranky children.
Everyone reacts to the stress in their own particular way, and sometimes unpleasantly. But what I find exciting is the way people also exhibit their finer traits. Christmas is a time of kindness and giving. It's a time when we have the opportunity to show others how much we care.
There is evidence everywhere of man's humanity to man – toy drop-offs, Christmas trees loaded with gift requests for the less fortunate, organized programs for nursing homes and shut-ins, adopt-a-family organizations, and so on. Strangers, who normally avoid eye contact, greet each other in the street. There is a spark in the air that speaks to us all in unique ways.
That's the good part. There are also some bad parts. Like Uncle Harry proving once again during family celebrations that the tree isn't the only thing getting lit this year. Then there's the slow realization that's been coming on for some time now, which is captured by a sign I once saw in a Christmas shop. It said that the four stages of life are as follows:
1. You believe in Santa Claus.
2. You don't believe in Santa Claus
3. You are Santa Claus
4. You look like Santa Claus.
If I were really a bah-humbug sort of person, I would tell you that joy is what you feel when the holiday is over. But I'm not, and it isn't. What we generally feel when it's over, is exhaustion! While it's happening, though, there are plenty of opportunities to experience joy. Maybe it's your new baby's first holiday. Perhaps it's your 6-year-old's shining eyes on Christmas morning. Or seeing your teenager dressed up for church, minus the holes in his pants and the random tufts of hair sticking up from his head. Most importantly, perhaps you've given the greatest gift of all, the gift of yourself to someone less fortunate.