“What, already?!” I hear you ask, a note of panic in your voice. Today marks two months until Christmas, which means that Christmassy stuff is already showing up in advertizing, and it is probably only a matter of time before they start playing Christmas (or should that be Xmas?) music in the shops.
In fact, I have heard that in the Philippines they have been playing Christmas music for at least a month now. But before we rush to judge, let us remember that they are living under a Marcos/Duterte government, and therefore are in need of all the jollity they can muster.
It has to be said, though, that generally speaking, Christmas shopping music is not an evoker of jollity. Particularly for those poor souls working in retail who spend their days hearing the same Xmassy album or two over and over and over again – something which should probably be covered by the Geneva Convention.
Which leads one to wonder: how much of the usual stuff done at this time of the year is actually being enjoyed by those who do it?
There are the illuminated decorations which do their best to pad out your power bill, the tickets for travel which cost so much more than at other times of the year, the crowded malls, the struggle to find parking, the angst of trying to find a suitable gift for a person who is not in need (and may not even have many unsatisfied wants), the noise, the logistics, the endless Fat Old Man in Red, the plastic, the packaging, the stress of Getting It All Done In Time…
And at the end of it all, a meal that may or may not be a feast compared to your usual fare, and a gathering of people whose company you may or may not have the time and headspace to enjoy, and the giving and receiving of things which may not be even wanted, let alone needed.
Where in all this, I ask myself, is the true joy of Christmas – and the Christ of Christmas? Maybe you manage to squeeze in a short church service in amongst the busy prep, if you’re not too tired. Maybe you get a treacly rendition of Silent Night in amongst the Santa Baby and the Jingle Bells (a song which, ironically, does not even mention Christmas, but is still played in the Southern Hemisphere summer to mark that event).
It may be that Christ means no more to you than the first part of the word Christmas. But regardless of our position on Christ, we should all be asking ourselves: what am I doing, and why am I doing it? If Christ is nothing to you (or even if He is, really), then why not do your family-and-food thing some other time? Have the annual family get-together early, beat the rush.
And if Christ means everything to you, then does your festivity reflect that? For myself, I find myself hungering for a Christmas that is all about Christ, which does not involve lots of shopping, or a crammed calendar, or stress, or Santa Baby, or anything involving a mall or the Fat Old Man in Red.
I’d like a Christmas that is quiet. A Christmas that sings of joy. A Christmas that tells the wonderful story again, with time to marvel. A Christmas that gives to those who really need.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with giving gifts to your loved ones (even if not in need), or decorations (illuminated or otherwise), or a nicer than usual meal – if those things bring joy. But all too often Christmas turns into a To Do list to get through by a certain date, and there is no joy in that.
So my wish for you – as well as myself – this year, is that the Feast of the Nativity of Christ will be a time of deep joy, and that the 25th of December will be a day without stress.