I wished him a Merry Christmas, just before Christmas. “Same to you,” he said, but his words felt flat. Then, rather than carrying on, he paused. A strapping young man whose name I don’t even know. A man with something on his mind. Something it seemed he hated to confess, but did anyway.
He lowered his voice. “Know what? I actually really hate Christmas.”
“What do you hate about it?”
“Well,” he hesitated, “I don’t know how to explain it.” He took a stab at it. “We get together with family we don’t see at any other time of the year. We give things to people we wouldn’t give the time of day to at any other time of the year…. and for what? “It all seems rather… pointless, you know.”
I decided to be honest.
“You know, I do too. Hate Christmas… or what people have made it. It can be horribly stressful.”
He grinned and nodded. “Exactly.”
I continued. “I’m a person of faith. I love the sacred meaning of Christmas. But honestly, I’d give anything to remove the commercialization from Christmas.”
He looked startled, as though something I’d just said had smacked him upside the head. Then he got excited. “Exactly! Exactly! I’m not very good with words, but, what you just said? That’s exactly how I feel!”
“Did you enjoy Christmas when you were a kid?” I asked, curious.
“Oh, yeah. But these days…” His voice trailed off, withered and narrowed, like the end of a stream. I sensed mud in the bottom.
“Christmas doesn’t match those childhood experiences, does it?”
“No, not at all. It’s just kind of… sad.”
All messed up for Christmas. Sad indeed.
As small children no day on the calendar shone like December 25th. We waited with excitement for the gifts our parents chose. In my childhood, (thanks to Sears catalogues) Mom and Dad always knew what would please us most. (They also realized what we needed – even the pyjamas we didn’t rejoice over.)
When we realized we too could give, we spilled our hearts out in paper, paint, sticks, and glue. Then we gave, trusting that our love would make our gifts worth receiving.
Did you get all messed up this Christmas? Want to love it again? It starts there. With becoming the child Jesus said we must become to enter his Kingdom – all year round. With focussing on God’s supreme gift – the gift our Heavenly Father knew the world most needed, even those who don’t want it. The gift guaranteed to bring abundant life and eternal delight to those who accept it: God’s own heart, spilled out in human flesh, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. Jesus Christ, Light-maker, Salvation-bringer. The gift of love that makes every day Christmas – no matter the season.
Nothing to hate about that.