For all those considering marching off to "The Battle for Christmas" and taking up arms for either "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," I invite you to join me in being a conscientious objector.
Beyond merely objecting, rise above the fray after considering the very word "holiday." It is derived from "Holy Day." How readily we forget.
With the growth of secularization and commercialism, the word "holiday" has been drained of spiritual meaning. We now have holidays/holy days such as Presidents Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and New Year's Day — and most modern "holidays" are largely celebrated just for being days off work. What the day originally celebrated gets only passing acknowledgement, if that. Instead, we busy ourselves shopping for "holiday specials," eating too much or getting out of town.
Holy days shouldn't be exceptions. ALL days are holy if we make them so. Wake up every morning to a holy day. One that is sacred, imbued with spirit, grace, humility, beneficence, hospitality, gratitude and opportunity. Vow in the new day to treat every person, including yourself, as holy. Vow to make every place and every encounter sacred.
Recently, my wife and I visited the hospice bedside of a withered, dying friend who had suffered two massive strokes. Our friend, who had been a semi-professional musician, had been robbed of speech by the strokes. But he could still hear, so my wife and I decided to sing to him. We chose Carole King's "You've got a friend."
"When you're down and troubled
and you need some love and care
and nothing, nothing is going right,
close your eyes and think of me;
And soon I will be there
to brighten up even your darkest night."
Our feeble friend lifted his one functioning, frail arm and joined in fingering the frets of his air guitar. Here was a holy day. We sang; he played.
I am blessed with many, many other such days. I live in the same city as my two young granddaughters, ages 3 and 5. In my retirement, I spend portions of at least one day a week with one or both of them. Everything we do together strikes me as holy, from little Alice wanting me to spin her into dizziness on the suspended tire in Dewitt Park, to Clara's delight in my reading "The Wizard of Oz" with her as she is nestles next to me in our "reading chair."
For the multitude not retired, make your workday holy as you serve others. Teach for, learn for, care for, provide insurance for, operate a cash register for, restock shelves for, collect garbage for, etc.
If all our days don't seem particularly holy, it's probably our fault. I confess many days darken my spirit. I don't blame it on the weather, although I certainly could. Usually the gloom is caused by distractions like running around in this season, trying to check off my list of Christmas/holiday gifts for friends and relatives.
But the day would be made holy by spending time with them. Or I could visit the ancient and massive White Oak up the street. Or hike to Council Crest or through Tryon State Park. Or seek solace and sanctuary to read or write or paint.
Or should I call on my mother-in-law, addled by dementia, adrift in time and place? I can help make her day and mine holy by just being there, listening to her imaginings.
Each year at this time, I re-read Dylan Thomas' classic "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Despite the "Christmas" in its title, it is a secular Christmas remembrance about bundling snow and tall, helmeted firemen; about the "two-tongued sea" and a "button-nosed" postman; about diminutive aunts and snoring uncles; about mounds of food and mind-boggling toys.
Yet at the book's end and day's end, Thomas gently invokes the holy: "I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept."
Happy Holy Days! All 365 of them.