As Christmas approaches, a standard subject of conversation among friends I meet on the street is what we are each doing for the holidays. Far too often I hear people I care for deeply saying something to the effect that they are not going to see their families because they don’t get along with a brother or sister or some other relative.
This saddens me, because it seems such a false righteousness.
For most of us, the commercial bludgeoning combined with a decrease in traditional religious belief has flattened the season into something less than the magic we long for and remember. Santa Claus displays promoting “glow in the dark” manger yard scenes don’t do much for our spirits, and we don’t have enough Christian fervor or commitment to fight against this venal consumerism. So, in our own fashions, we roll over and play dead. We line up to buy and try to find a way to keep some vestige of spiritual meaning in a season where Jesus plays second fiddle to an XBox.
There are, blessedly, families that have managed to transcend this spiritual diminution of the most cherished of American holiday seasons, and they deserve our unvarnished admiration. But, by and large, the marketplace has won, and in doing so, it has deadened our souls.
What we have left, and what we must cherish, is family. To hold grudges, keep distances, or nurse hurts at this time of year is to deny one of the truest gifts we are given in life — the gift of our love for those with whom we have been given the good fortune to share our time on this earth.
All you need to do is find someone who has no family and this will come into stark relief. Those who are displaced, have lost those they love through death or disaster, or who were cast aside by family sometime in their lives, and you will feel the sad absence of that which the rest of us too often take for granted.
This is a time to reach out and heal. We all feel righteous about something in regard to others around us. We all feel poorly served by someone or some event. But this is not the season to assert such petty angers. Small slights that have become big rifts; distances that have been long accepted; differences that have created indifference between and among family members, should be put aside for this season.
We are all human; we all struggle; we all make mistakes. We do not all share the same world view or the same values. But we all yearn for love, and we all have corners of ourselves where our own particular goodness shines through. This is the season to look for that goodness in others.
I hope you will each take the spirit of the season into your heart, even if the religious beliefs on which it is based are no longer part of your lives. God does work in strange ways, you know. And a season that calls out to us to love may be one of the most subtle and clever.
Let’s keep our ears open to that call. Let’s do what we can to warm the space between us and another. It is the best gift we can give, and the best way to find the power of spirit in a world and a season that sorely need it.