Looking forward to Christmas Day this year. Anticipation of a birthday party. A birthday party on a stage with many dancers, dancing their own merry steps that reflect their individual stories of Christmas.
Christmas is a story we tell ourselves based on our experiences of Christmas. When we decorate our Christmas tree, or shop at the mall, or painstakingly mail our Christmas cards complete with our annual newsletter, we’re living out our experiences, not signing a declaration that we believe all the events that were written about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
It’s our distinctive Christmas story we like the best. When the nights grow longest it all comes together each year like a grand musical. As a society, the Christmas Story starts in August with the inevitable complaints about how early stores start selling holiday goods and lasts until Epiphany in the first week or so of January. As individuals there is wide variety: those who hold their belief in the Child dear to those who love a winter holiday to those who would rather avoid the whole season altogether.
Many of the dancers move with the choreography of the rest of Jesus’ life on earth, the Christos, the anointed one. Some step to all the secular symbols of the holiday: Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents, house lighting. Many rejoice with the movement of family while treasuring past Christmases. There is a group who plan their merchandising months in advance so that their bottom lines might turn profitable on that terribly-named Black Friday. The very young look forward to the openings on Christmas morning.
Many of those on stage alter their dance as the act goes on, enjoying more than way to express their story. Some, hurt by past and current experiences that happen during this dark season, silently move into the wings with their pain.
Christmas isn’t just a day of celebration, it’s a season lasting for months. Dancing for a month or more can be exhausting, especially if we’d also like to celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. We reach the 25th of December having been en pointe for weeks and weeks. No wonder the Birth Day party gets obscured.
My own dance starts with the memories of childhood, bicycles, an American Flyer train with smoke and Erector Sets and a Christmas tree with bubble lights and tinsel. When we celebrated Christmas in Hawaii the trees arrived by container ship. I treasure Christmas with my own children, secreting the toys at the neighbor’s house next door. Thirteen years of working retail at the mall, the red and green bandwagon starting the first of November gives me a perspective on shopping. I now have a more relaxed and modest holiday as an older adult, with a small tree on the mantle, well out of the way of our small puppy and the cats.
What matters today is that I can be grateful in my heart for the birth. All the trappings that men have hung on the event, all the theological ink and lives spilled over the details and meanings are no longer important. A man of peace and goodwill was born. Every last one of us starts out that way. Jesus of Nazareth grew to see his relationship with God become the true center of his life. The Christmas birthday party offers us a chance to reflect on that level of mindfulness.
Mindful? Grateful? Ready to dance?
Peace to men and women of goodwill.