What if there were no Christmas? There would be no catch-phrases like: Just believe!, You’d Better watch Out! and Peace on Earth- Goodwill toward Men! Why would one need to believe any more or any less on December 25th than they would any other day of the year? And why the focus on peace? On goodwill?
What if Christmas was no more? There would be no great need for focusing on giving. Nor a need to show extra cheer and joy. No need for food, festivities and fun. Why bother? Christmas would just be another random day. It would be no different than the 25th of any other month.
A few Christmases ago, a family member was unable to make it home for the holidays. Instead, they chose to not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense, sleeping in late that day to distract from the reality of a year without Christmas revelry. That Christmas was rather sad for everyone in our immediate family. Sad, because we missed this person around the table, as did they miss being with us. Sad too because traditions were broken with the absence of a loved family member. And furthermore, sad because it became apparent that Christmas could be skipped. Something my childhood mind had never considered.
For in all the years I had celebrated Christmas, I had not imagined it possible that December 25th could be anything but an extraordinary, significant day. A day of wonder, magic and excitement. A day of love, generosity and goodwill. A day when mere mortals transcend the ordinary and merge with the supernatural. A day of miraculous birth in a lowly shed, heralded by angels, led by a star. The very meaning and intent of Christmas is to witness the remarkable. That particular year of which I speak, I had a stark realization: Christmas is what you make of it. And when nothing is made, Christmas must cease to be.
Years later, I have grappled with ebb and flow of Christmas cheer. Some years I am up for it. Some years, not so much. There were the years I was pregnant and exhausted. Then came the early parenting years when our children were still waking at all hours of the night. And now, here we are in the heart of the growing-up years when life is on speed-dial and everything seems to race past me while I stand in a confused daze. Life sometimes robs the joy of everyday living, let alone the joy and wonder of Christmas.
But I have come to a greater realization than my first epiphany, and it is this. Christmas is. Period. Nothing I can do or not do can erase Christmas. It cannot be wiped off the calendar, although it can be left uncelebrated. It cannot be eradicated. Ignored. Left unrecognized. For everywhere one goes this time of year, Christmas is. And while at times Christmas preparations can seem a burden, the true spirit of Christmas is so much more. That spirit is found in the desire within the hearts and minds of all humankind to show a sense of goodwill and brotherly love, all while recognizing the deeper reason for the season was a love story, indeed a rescue plan for all mankind. A plan borne out of peace and love and hope. A humble plan that has forever changed the way we examine our lives.
And yes, while Christmas is still what we make of it- or not, it can be so much more when what we make of it is purposeful to our lives. Christmas has become something of a construct with the dominance of the secular side of Christmas in popular culture. And yet, the true spirit of Christmas is something far greater than mere presents on Christmas morning and a turkey dinner later that day. For Christmas is derived from the very heart of God. And as such it requires a mindset that willingly transcends the reality of our everyday lives. A mindset which is able to create within us the desire for something bigger than ourselves. Something more.
The spirit of Christmas. No tragedy on earth is so great it can shut the door on that which restores our faith in humanity as is the way of Christmas cheer and goodwill. No atrocity, no natural disaster, no personal trauma is so big that the spirit of Christmas cannot reach down and touch a chord. That a baby in a manger is able to touch our lives in so poignant a way still today tells us much about the importance of Christmas. We can still hold to the faith that there is good in this world, and what better time of year to remind ourselves of this fact than at Christmas.
What if there were no Christmas? December 25th would just be another random day. And humankind might never come to understand what it means to believe in something greater than themselves, something altogether wonderful and mystical. Extraordinary. Something so small as a gesture or a thought, yet bigger than the sometimes horrifying reality of our everyday world. For this is the miracle of Christmas, and it will live on inside those who truly believe. For Christmas is. And it always will be.