Maybe This is a Christmas Sermon…

It seems like November 28 is my day to “do” Christmas. Facebook memories told me that last year and the year before, I DID Christmas. I woke up yesterday with the same urge and pushed until the packages were wrapped and the cards written, all the while telling Bear, “I hate this.”

Christmas always makes me feel like something is expected of me and I have to stop everything and DO Christmas. That’s a lifetime of training, childhood, of plane trips home, of this and that and the expectation that everything would change and presents and then? Dry pine needles all over the carpet and putting the lights back so they won’t tangle next year. I dunno… My Christmases as a single, family-less adult have been much better, sweeter, shorter, less predictable, but it is still something that has to be done.

I like Christmas cards, though. I saved that task as a reward for doing all the rest of it yesterday.

The reality of Christmas here is that it is Vvvvveeeerrrrrryyyyyy long. My friend’s boutique is the first weekend in November. The show at the museum happens at the end of November. The big (I use that term in a relative sense) parade is this coming weekend — the first weekend in December. Seriously by the time the actual DATE of Christmas rolls around I’m over it, or like, “What? You mean it hasn’t happened YET???”

I read a blog post last night about Black Friday and yeah, I don’t get it, either. My ONE experience with that nightmare was with the Evil X who was not one to layabout when there was money (mine) to spend. He decided he had to go to a particular (popular and immense) electronics store in San Diego on Black Friday. It was unreal. People were lined up for MILES to get into the store. I was a little happy (comparatively) to learn that it’s called Black Friday NOT because the forces of evil are making one last earnest attempt to capture souls, but because stores that have been in the red for months have a chance of operating in the black. It’s a major day for the US economy.

That’s sad. And I go back to my forces of evil comment. It’s not that no one needs to buy stuff or the sales aren’t good — I definitely benefited from them in my purchase of surfaces to paint on. But what’s the deal? What if prices were that low all the time? Would stores make money or lose it? I have no idea.

I had a little conversation with a friend recently about the question of wealth. He’s been out of work for a while (he has savings so it hasn’t killed him) and now he has a really good job that he likes. He was about to buy a computer. He asked me which one. I’m not the person to ask. I’ve been a Mac user since the 80s and while I’ve used PCs a lot, I am not likely to buy one. No special reason other than personal preference. “Buy the best you can afford.”

“But how do I know what I can afford?”

Then I tried explaining that the computer is REAL wealth while the money he buys it with is symbolic wealth and its value isn’t constant while the computer — as long as it works well — continues to have the same value over time. I told him I was exposed (??) exposed to that idea in my college ethics class. Our professor was an Anglican priest and one of our books was Alan Watts’ Does It Matter? I explained that idea was a major force in forming my adult values. I’m glad of that because I never went into a field that was going to bring in a lot of symbolic wealth!

So are all those rabid Black Friday sales an attempt by stores to be sure people have more REAL wealth in exchange for their symbolic wealth? I don’t know. I do know that people have bitched about the commercialization of Christmas at least since 1952 when I was born. And then they talk about the “true meaning of Christmas” as if that discussion would compensate for all the shopping? I don’t know or really care. For me Christmas is a quotation from the Bible that I’ve loved all my life and which (it seems) I did not properly understand until a few years ago — apparently. More on THAT to follow.

It’s a strange thing for a person who’s written four novels centered on Christianity that I’m not exactly a Christian. As Goethe said of himself, “I’m not anti-Christian, I’m not unChristian, I’m simply not Christian.” I’m just grateful that the people around me are OK with that. And why not? For the very reason I’m not sure about the quotation any more. It’s the scene (Luke 2:8…) where the shepherds are out there with their livestock guardian dogs and their sheep. The angels show up and scare the shit out of the shepherds, but it works out in the end. Here’s the King James Bible:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

I read a newer version of this verse that implied that God’s gift was ONLY for the chosen people, not all men and, since I don’t have my fancy-schmancy English Hexapla (six translations of the Greek into English, headed by the Greek; greatest book of my life) any more (Ariel — my wolf dog — destroyed it when I was traveling and she was angry) I can’t check the Greek. Christian or not (in the normal sense) I love those shepherds and how they rushed over (with their sheep, of course) to check out the doings in Bethlehem. Really a peace offering from God is no small thing. And, I have chosen (since it seems people can change/reinterpret the meanings of words in the Bible at will) to believe that light in the darkness is offered to ALL people of goodwill. And why “people of goodwill”? Synonyms include compassion, kindness, openness to others. It’s not all that elitist, still, it’s elitist. The way I learned the verse was, “Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.” I’m sticking with it.

25 thoughts on “Maybe This is a Christmas Sermon…

  1. We just did the first day of Chanukah here. Daughter and her hubby came over with baby Morgan. (Morgan is a girl. They wanted to pick the name before she was born but didn’t want to know her sex.) We ate turkey soup from Thanksgiving with matzoh balls, latkas and apple sauce and lit candles. Gave my daughter that deck of Chinese playing cards and my wife a bike rack for her car.

    I got to hold the baby for a while which is the only gift that matters to me. I could gaze into that little face forever.

    Everybody was completely happy with everything – except my wife who started worrying about all the money I’d spent and we don’t REALLY need the bike carrier and etc. We aren’t poor but she grew up in a working-class family and her parents had been thru the Great Depression. So I know exactly where that’s coming from.

    • I wish you and your family a happy Chanukah! It sounds like a perfect first night. I’m happy to know you got the Chinese cards and had someone to give them to. 🙂

  2. This might sound cynical but one of the worst Christmas’s I ever had was with a large gathering of family. The gift opening was one frantic frenzy, and I just sat there and thought ‘this is nuts.’ Our Christmas is quiet now, and I love it. Probably why my favorite Christmas show is A Charlie Brown Christmas when Linus quotes the Bible with the same verses you used. Peace reigns.
    I have to laugh, though, that you managed to us the Bible, shepherds, and shit in the same paragraph. I’m still laughing.

    • “Shitless” Lois. The shit is missing. 😉 The point has to be made, though, that where there are shepherds, there will be shit. If sheep then shit. It’s a classic equation that gets less attention now, but is still true.

      My family (long long ago) opened presents on Christmas Eve. And we did it one at a time, one person, one present at a time. And we appreciated everyone else’s presents. It was wonderful, honestly. Even when it was all of us grandkid (27) that’s what we did. I was taught (indoctrinated?) long ago that Christmas isn’t about presents. I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, too, and I will always love Luke 2:8 etc. That’s why every livestock guardian dog Christmas card is and will always be an image like that. There are four now. ❤

  3. That picture of bear, sheep, and the star…it’s absolutely beautiful. It tells a story itself. Being single and an empty nester has brought about a shift for me. I guess I was born hating the commercialization of Christmas~probably before I even understood and trusted it’s story. I hate Black Fridays~once I tried it with my sister. I don’t want or desire more stuff. I put up my little tree and mailed off half of my presents (today to Alaska) the other half tomorrow to Washington. My parents are simple folks, like me, and we have a $15 dollar limit on grab gifts. Tomorrow I’m giving donated money from my book sales to 5 ladies with special abilities; together the 6 of us will try and fill an empty box for our area kids. There’s my Christmas. On Christmas Day I’ll stay in my pjs until I can FaceTime the grandkids~and watch old movies. I’ll bundle up and take Finley out if I’m able. I’m learning to protect my peace. In education, like you mentioned in your post with so many celebrations beginning early, I was burned out before Christmas ever arrived. The only pressure I feel to get things accomplished is about my writing ~securing the time to practice and do. Sending you huge hugs and love always! Finley and me. 💛🤗🐶

    • Bear and I just got back from a ramble now that everything is done though I might make cookies etc. I told Bear we only had two more things to do — company this weekend and I’ll read from the China book the following weekend. Then? My favorite way to do Christmas is just to let it happen. That philosophy has led to many very magical Christmas Eves, though I have to say I would love to go visit my aunts in Montana. Those lovely moments are over all too soon. ❤ Me, Bear and Teddy. Oh Bear wants Finn to know she got to smell a really big puddle of deer urine. 🐾🦌

      • Finley is super excited, and a bit jealous, of the deer urine (as part poodle she prides herself on sniffing out the good stuff)! Sounds like a magical Christmas. My youngest lived in Great Falls for several years. At the time my oldest lived in Idaho. When Finn and I took out on our two month journey I attempted traveling Lewis and Clark’s route from Missouri. On a whim (which I love doing when traveling) I decided to take the most beautiful drive I’ve experienced between Boise and Missoula. I wanted to move to either state. I love Idaho and crave Montana. At one time, after spending 5 consecutive summers visiting Colorado, I was sure I’d move to the Gunnison area (or around Mancos…now I know about your heavenly spot). I wanted to mention earlier that yesterday, before taking my niece to a theater performance of Cinderella, I had she, myself, and my oldest special sister fill out Christmas cards with me for our aunts and uncles. I love writing Christmas cards. 💛❤️💜

  4. “Not Christian” seems to be hard for people to grasp. Lack of belief in something is not the same as belief in the opposite. We get so attached to our beliefs that we seem to think those who don’t believe the same things are somehow our enemies. The experience of not believing is distinct from (not opposed to) any particular belief. Christmas is weird. As a child, the “season” began after Thanksgiving. Now it seems to peak this weekend and we coast for the next month.

    • That’s how the season seems to have mutated to me, too. I’m lucky that my friends care enough about me and respect me enough that they are more interested in understanding me than converting me. It’s one reason I’m grateful I live here. ❤

  5. Since quite a few years I only receive one Christmas postcard. And this comes from my tax advisor. I DO not Christmas any longer and I am quite happy with this decision. It was meaningful when my son was young but now he would say: “Most people do Christmas because most people do Christmas”. Wise words from a young man with a wise father 🙂

    • Your son is right. I “do” Christmas partly because there are some kids involved, partly because the people around me do (and invite me), partly because there are aspects I like — like making Christmas cards. The paradox — for me — is that I GET that people are celebrating that the longer days are returning but I like winter so I guess I’m celebrating the cold, dark and the possibility of snow. In this desert, it’s only a possibility, but when it happens it’s great. I think I’ve made my own “holiday” out of it.

      • Of course there is not much to complain about at Christmas and as long as you know what you are getting yourself into, it can be a very nice celebration. For me it has degenerated into a commercial event and for that reason alone I want to stay out of it. But there are a number of other reasons ….. Maybe when I’m in the old people’s home, I’ll be happy if I can sing along in the Christmas choir. But after that I would have to spend Christmas alone again …..

          • Nostalgia and mindset (family,education…). Generally all fine with me. But e.g.every year after the holidays, many people come to our debt counseling centers because they have bought too much. Actually it was once a festival of contemplation. I obviously missed something in the story. And I lost that feeling….

            • Once my Christmases became mostly solitary (actually solitary even with other people) and I relaxed into that, I noticed things happened. One year my stepson and his wife (from Dresden) brought German Christmas (she was homesick and brought food, presents, a Star Trek movie) to me on Christmas Eve. I took them up to the local mountains (California) where there was half a meter of snow, the best present for my German daughter-in-law. We had a wonderful time. Another year I rode a horse and I hadn’t thought I could even get on one any more (hip surgeries…). Another year my blind friend who was a painter, gave me his brushes for Christmas. Another year I went to my neighbor’s house for dinner and discovered her husband had Eddie Rickenbacher’s actual airplane seat in his basement. I just let it happen and it’s always proved interesting and sometimes amazing. Sometimes it’s just me and the dogs and the Big Empty and that’s wonderful, too. I am expecting that Christmas this year but I am not sure there is anything better.

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