But what is Christmas and why will it hold so much pain for us this year? The Christmas holiday like many Christian traditions is the result of cultural hijack by a dominant political body. Roman Christians (The dominant political force of the early first millennia AD/CE) seeking to indoctrinate animistic cultures they were seeking to assimilate into the empire took a common celebration (Winter Solstice) already in existence and colored it in Christian motifs.
Already having established a spring time format for essential Christian tradition of annualizing the memory of the resurrection of Christ (Easter), it seemed only appropriate to find a time for a second High Holy Holiday celebrating the earthly arrival of the man/God who will save the humanity from its own self-destructive tendencies.
So Easter celebrates the gift of everlasting life from God as demonstrated by Christ’s bodily resurrection; and Christmas celebrates the gift of Christ to the world so as to lead to Easter. Only the likes of Jim Jones and David Koresh have figured out that the ultimate celebration of the Second Coming will involve self-sacrifice by Kool-Aid or Federal bullets. Too harsh you say. Too far you say. Perhaps, but none of us will ever know this side of eternity.
But enough of the future, let us venture back to the 1860’s and the advent of the commercial Christmas in the industrial hinterland of the future Germany. It started with Christmas ornaments manufactured for sale rather than handmade at home. And from there it became a source of exchange and the gift giving and ornamentation of the season began. Christmas hymns go back to the origin of the Winter Solstice hijack, and Christmas Carols (Music to celebrate the season without religious overtones) to the Reformation Era of the church, the late 1400’s.
This history lesson has been brought to you by Ovaltine: Remember to drink your Ovaltine! But really, what is the point? If we strip away the overt and covert religion of the holiday we are left with humanitarian edicts of sharing peace and goodwill to all, covertly we term these attributes as love, peace, joy and hope all attributes embodied by the man who grew from the babe whose birth is celebrated on December 25. And those bent to spreading the doctrine and dogma of eschatology, then the season points to the hope that Christ will come again sooner rather than later, wipe out the bad and guarantee the good.
Now, ask me if I care? Really!?!? How are we to reconcile a Divine plan of good for all humanity in the light of the theft of our son from our lives? How is Evan’s passing related to Easter, Christmas or the Second coming? I am fairly confident that I will not get those answers here. And there is the rub of the moment. In the midst of a down economy and a public lacking commercial confidence, in the midst of the most significant period of money making in the retail year – the engine of our capitalist society, we are trying to make sense of created-creator-breaker mental machinations while our minds seek to fend off the overwhelming influx of marketing and advertising geared to stimulating buying decisions. The mental gymnastics of being lured to objects by sparkle, greed, covetous or jealous behavior is juxtaposed against the desire to do the best for those we love against the hollow hole of ragged pain that was the place Evan held in our hearts.
Santa (nee Sinta Klaus, Father Christmas, Old Saint Nick, etc.), the original Saint of giving knew that the gifts given were to be anonymous and to go to those had no hope. That the gift was not the gift, that the act of giving was not the gift, the gift was in the hope that God cared enough to send a second chance, that there could be no quid pro quo just acceptance or rejection. And look at where this has led to. Capitalism is not to blame, but rather the pursuit of profits at the expense of all other priorities has so corrupted the season, that personal reflection of a profound loss is crowded out.
This year, the ‘Christmas’ letter was complete before Thanksgiving, Christmas lights will not be strung outside, and there is a plan to make the LEGO train under the tree a permanent creation so that the pain of construction year in and year out will be lessened. Also on the agenda is the continuing infrastructure of Evan’s Garden: Water feature completion with bridge, 2 walkways and a circle kit pave, and completing the water delivery to the greenhouse and the vegetable/herb beds.
We will sit out in that space of peace a lot, even in the winter, and we will listen to the sounds of so many wind chimes on the Dream Tree while in the back ground the water cascades from fountain to waterfall, all while grateful birds take their noisy fill of seed and sun. And all around us will be life: the life that was, the life that is, and the life that will be.
Marx may have been right that religion is the crutch of the masses, and Orwell may have grasped that the proletariat will be happy with sports, pornography a constant war. But I ask you, what is Christmas to you? Is it about the Christ Child? Or is it the promise of an Easter Sunrise? Or the hope of a Second Coming? Do you find the meaning to be wrapped in the gifts given or received? Is it the celebration of family and friends while feasting the famished soul? Or is it all wrapped into together in a hodge podge of love, hope, peace and joy?
I can’t honestly say for us. All we hope is that we don’t step on any land mines, and if we do, that we don’t blow up anyone else with us. Perhaps we will share and feel the love, seek out a personal peace, find a common hope in the common suffering and realize that to merely be alive is to be the joy. Life is precious, life is fragile, and life is built on relationships, and so I say to our friends 600 miles away in Tennesse, “Woop!”