“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”
Roy L. Smith
“Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling.”
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve wrapped presents for my girls and I’m not feeling well, but I’ve taken some medicine so I feel okay for now. I’m listening to December by George Winston and I’m feeling grateful for all that I have and all that I’ve done this year and all that I am and am becoming.
Christmas can be a very difficult and stressful time because we put all these extraordinary expectations on it:
· It should be perfect.
· Everyone should get what they want.
· No one should be alone.
I’ve always believed these things myself. And that can make it harder. I’d like to discuss each of these beliefs.
First, the idea that Christmas should be perfect just creates too much stress. What does that mean anyway? Does it mean that there’s no stress or strife or complaining or negativity? I don’t mean to be cynical, but December 25 is just another day. Granted, it is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but it could have been any day. It may also help to remember much of the world literally does see this as just another day because they don’t celebrate Christmas. So they don’t have unrealistic expectations about how the day should go. They probably have no expectations at all.
But it’s important here and I understand why we want it to be perfect. People work hard to make it perfect. We decorate trees and our homes. We make sumptuous meals. We travel and we make special arrangements to see friends and family. Some people get time off, but the Christmas season can feel like a second job. And then there’s the shopping.
There have been times in my life when I found just the right gift for someone and it made me happy to buy it. Gift-giving comes from a long tradition starting with the Magi, the three wise kings, giving gifts to the baby Jesus. Chances are that didn’t happen on the night of Jesus’s birth. But things have morphed over the centuries and now gift-giving and shopping are the main focus of Christmas for many people. Lately, I’ve found it not only stressful, but also arbitrary, odd, and contradictory. There seems to be very little peace on earth and good will towards all men when I’m just trying to find a parking space or I’m irritable because the last Cotton Candy Maker, the one I’ve been trying to get my daughter, is gone. I like gifts. I like giving them and receiving them. But there’s something strange about fighting crowds and traffic to buy things that may or may not make others happy. And if things are what make us happy, then our priorities may be wrong anyway.
Finally, there’s the idea that no one should be alone on Christmas Day. No one should be alone on any day, unless they want to be. More accurately, no one should be lonely on Christmas Day, or any other day. I enjoy being alone, but I hate being lonely. The difference is obvious. Loneliness tells me that I am incomplete or that I am not wanted or accepted. But the truth is if I can’t learn to love myself, it’s hard to accept the love of others. Other people can and do enrich our lives. And they can make them make our lives more challenging. But most of my strife is internal. External factors only bring out what is already in me, including fear, anger, or neediness. Companionship is good. Neediness is not.
Last night I felt very needy. An external event triggered it. But I am tired of being needy and afraid. So I practiced the discipline of being in the moment, first by observing my fear and then by realizing it was only a thing, like a physical object. I could choose to hold onto it or to let it go. I kept observing it until I felt neutral about it, until it no longer controlled me. I let it go. Within a few minutes, I felt calm and all my fear was gone. Soon I felt love, joy, and peace – the ideals of Christmas.
So then Christmas, the true spirit of Christmas is not about getting, or even about giving, but about being… being peaceful, being joyful, and being loving so that we can give and receive in the spirit with which it was intended. I can do this by being present in each moment. I can create peace on Earth and good will towards all men. I can Get Started and Keep Going…and make every day like Christmas.