By the time you read this, you'll have heard the strains of "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" blaring in your ears at least eight or nine times (and it's only Thursday), and on at least two or three of those times, part of you will have done a mental eye-roll and been like, "Yeah, right." Well, you're not alone.
I (and I suspect many others) have a love-hate relationship with Christmas. Or, to be more accurate, with what Christmas has become. Every year, I come to despise more and more the Black Friday crush that comes earlier every year, the mindless reduction of the holiday to a Santa Claus no one believes in any longer anyway and a generic talk of "togetherness" as bland as the Festivus a few atheists want to replace the day with. Is it so wrong to think that Christmas is meant to be more than an endless jumble of shopping deals and bad Hallmark movies?
I'm sure most people feel like this at some point. It just becomes a hassle, a family get-together to endure without too much damage to the house, without too badly strained feelings, etc. Certainly that's how my family can be, and many years, I'm left thinking that I won't be able to enjoy Christmas at all.
For a few days at most, but always for December 24th and 25th, I find it within me to put aside my cynicism and detachment and appreciate the season for what it is. And if you know me at all, you know that I'm duty-bound to tell you it's about the birth of the Son of God, not about a man in a red suit or anything like that. But, I don't think all the talk about Santa and Rudolph and so on is out of place, either. Our society is based on fixed, tangible things: What we can see, what we can measure, what we can prove must be true because this theorem or scientific law says it is. And certainly those are good things. Having that kind of mathematical certainty can be very comforting.
But it's not all there is. A human being is an innately spiritual creature; even if he no longer believes in God, he still has the capacity to dream, to let his imagination run away with him, to think up grand stories in a make-believe world and wish, even for a moment, that it was true. And for a few days at this time of year, we get the chance to stop and reflect on the existence of a realm beyond our own, one no less real than ours, but where impossible things happen like reindeer defying gravity, a fat old man squeezing down millions of chimneys in one night, and a virgin conceiving a child. And if we're being honest with ourselves, we'll admit that our lives are enriched when that world interacts with ours.
That thought makes me smile. And at the end of what is often a hard year, smiles are desperately needed. So, when you're at your holiday get-togethers next week, don't forget to raise your glass or at least give a nod to magic and other impossible things.