Cornbread and coffee with Santa
"Keep Christ in Christmas!" is the familiar refrain of Christians who fear the secularization of the holy day celebrating the birth of Jesus, their savior.
But in America, non-Christians often celebrate Christmas.
According to a recent poll by the Christian group LifeWay Research, "A majority of agnostics or those claiming no preference (89 percent), individuals claiming other religions (62 percent), and even atheists (55 percent) celebrate Christmas along with 97 percent of Christians."
Do you need to be Christian to celebrate Christmas? What is Christmas all about?
To answer the question, "Is Christian Christmas?", I think a story may help illuminate the truths here:
Twas the night before Christmas last year, when all through the house everyone was sleeping except for me. Christmas Eve is a long night of cooking followed by an early Christmas morning wake up call to go to 7 am service at church before breakfast and then putting the bird in the oven as soon as possible after. Midnight Mass from Rome was on television as I was taking the cornbread for the dressing out of the oven. I heard a gentle bump overhead, paused for a moment, but continued with my work, now chopping vegetables for the dressing that I would mix later. Then I heard a key in the door. I stopped my work to see who was coming into the house since everyone who should be in the house was in the house.
"Santa!" I said excited but quiet. I did not want to wake the family. "What a pleasant surprise." Santa Claus and I have been personal friends for years.
"I saw your light on and I knew that I could stop and get a cup of coffee," Santa explained.
"You know that you are always welcome," I said as I put the water on for the French pressed coffee that he likes. "And, you are just in time for some straight out of the oven cornbread with butter."
'That is my good fortune," Santa replied with his usual good humor.
I knew he was tired. We think of Christmas Eve night as the few hours between sunset and dawn, but for Santa, working the time zones across the entire globe, it is a long long night. As exhausting as the holidays can be for me, I remember that they are much more tiring for him. We asked after each other's family, and we were happy to learn that everyone was doing fine. Once the coffee was poured--he likes his strong and black--we talked about the meaning of Christmas in these times.
"I always worry about the commercialism of the day and about the focus on what one gets," he said thoughtfully. "But what bothers me more these days is the annual war around whether we ought to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whether or not the manger scene ought to be displayed on public property, whether or not Jesus has been lost in the rush or what the holiday does or ought to mean for people who are not Christians or who do not believe in God at all."
"So what do you think?" I asked, sensing that he, like us, just wanted to think out loud about the subject.
"Well, everything I am points back to Jesus. St. Nicholas is a saint who lived a life of generosity to the poor. Kris Kringle is a name that means the Christ Child. Santa Claus derives from both of these ideas and is a man famous for his generosity to children. It all comes from the gift of love that God gave to the world through the birth of Jesus. However, I am happy that atheists or agnostics or people who are not Christians celebrate Christmas. Because while they may not believe in the various Christian theologies, they are celebrating the essence of Christianity which is love, kindness, the blessedness of giving, faith in each other and hope for a better world. Whether one says Merry Christmas of Happy Holidays does not matter as long as one is expressing a genuine goodwill.
"The lovely intangibles," I said.
"The lovely intangibles?"
"Yes, the lovely intangibles that the John Payne character speaks about in Miracle on 34th Street. It is one of my favorite Christmas movies.
"Yes, I know it well. I like its depiction of me. Yes. The lovely intangibles. And, beyond that, I am always so happy to see people who take the time during this season to think of those who are less fortunate. They give gifts to the children of prisoners and to the children of military personnel deployed overseas. They give gifts to the poor. This is the true spirit of Christmas. More important than the gifts are the relationships.
"What makes me sad is when people feel forced to be happy and they take drugs or alcohol to accomplish this, and then they say and do things that harm their relationships," Santa Continued. "I am not unmindful that this time of year is both happy and difficult for many people. I also know that these are hard economic times and this can add to stress. The last thing Christmas should be is stress."
"Yes, we talked about that the night you took me back to the North Pole with you. It is work, but the work ought to be done in love otherwise it is simple drudgery. It is not a gift."
"That's right. Christmas has many symbols. Some come from pre-Christian celebrations of the winter solstice to more modern inventions--Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Charlie Brown's Christmas for example. The lights are lovely. And then there is the music, the beautiful music. Ancient tunes, carols from various cultures, each splendid in its own integrity, are sung in concert with new beautiful songs."
"I agree. I love the relatively new song 'Mary Did You Know?' It reminds me that we do not know who these children are. Each one of them is a gift from God to the world. We do not know which one has the cure for cancer or the diplomatic solution to war or any number of the other troubles that trouble humankind. We ought to welcome them all and treat them all as if they were the Christ child. We ought to allow them all to have the magic of Christmas, even a belief in you, because childhood is so short, and we will be adults for the rest of our days. I think that we can have you and Jesus at Christmas without contradiction," I said.
"You are kind" Santa said. "Yes, Christmas is magic for children, and New Year's Eve is a kind of Saturnalia for adults. It's all good. But, my Christmas wish always is that the love, goodwill, generosity, joy and peace that we speak of during this season will be a reality through the entire year, that we will carry the Christmas spirit with us every day of the year."
"Amen," I said. We toasted Christmas with our coffee, and then he was on his way, heading west for the last leg of his work before he would be back at the North Pole for Christmas breakfast and rest.
Posted by: FarnazMansouri2 | December 24, 2010 11:27 PM
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