Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mixed Bag Around Holiday Time

Christmas is first and foremost a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Certainly over the centuries many ancillary trappings have been added to the occasion that vary considerably in how clearly they point to the main "reason for the season." Some culturally specific symbols can be even quite difficult to attach to the person of Jesus Christ, and his initial Incarnation among humankind. Nevertheless, for the most part we accept even the most tangential decorations and symbols because they add to festival that already has a good reason to exist. Christmas parties, friendly gatherings, store decorations and mall music add to the "spirit" of the season. Indeed to be so enveloped in a cultural blanket of Yule tide indicators is to feel warm and cocoa-filled no matter what menial task one must accomplish when out and about. It's very nice.

Unfortunately, no matter how much of a blessing such an ambient Christmas "temperature" may be, there remains a cold draft that accompanies the comfy wafts of hearth and home: This is the opposing reality of being ever aware, during the season of gifts and giving, of how little one has.

Everywhere one turns are the reminders of things just outside of the budgetary reach. The seemingly wealthy throngs all enjoy tastes and materials with great joy, and the lesser-resourced onlooker can do little more than rejoice for the one enjoying them. Visiting commercial centers such as a mall is very tempting, for indeed all the trappings possess a magical attraction to go out and walk among the celebrants. However, the mall is also a depressing place to visit because it's a veritable gauntlet of opportunities to repeat to excited children, "No, sorry. There's no money for that."

The dignified poor do not broadcast this though. Instead they simply excuse themselves from office parties and gift exchanges before it can be revealed that they lacked the means to participate. When asked, "What did you get for your children for Christmas?" They deflect with accounts of front yard football and traditional holiday movies rather than honestly confess, "Oh, something simple and basic like shelter, heat, light and groceries." They smile as more abundantly resourced celebrants talk of "family being the greatest gift of all." They agree that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive, so they lavish generously upon their peers the "gifts" of encouragement, affection and loyalty. They seek to creatively teach their children the weightier matters of Christmas so that their young minds will be sufficiently distracted away from the empty space beneath the tree (what tree?). Regrettably, their tepid zeal for all things holiday related may be interpreted as a muttered "humbug," though the reality is far from it. The lesser-resourced often love the Lord Jesus Christ to such extent as to long to be ever more engaged in all things Christmas related.

The ambient conditions of the Christmas season ubiquitously present everywhere out in the community are a joy for those given over to the Christmas "spirit." However, they are a "mixed bag" for those who see all of these trappings and wish they could engage them more. Indeed such surroundings can serve as glaring reminders of what cannot be engaged. Just so you know, the friend who graciously bows out of that holiday festivity may not be ignoring an opportunity for celebration out of some sliver of "Scrooge" sentiment. They might instead want to avoid revealing their diminished means at a time when abundance is the celebrated norm.

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