As with a great many Americans, Christmas is my favorite holiday of all.
One need not be a Christian to enjoy the displays of festive lights, verdant wreaths, and Santa Claus paraphernalia all around. Whether the music is popular standards such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or the soaring magnificence of Handel’s Messiah, it is impossible to not feel a spring in your step and a song in your heart.
Although many merchants are pushing our buttons to encourage us to spend—and then spend some more—the point of most of the spending is to bring joy to our friends and loved ones, so Christmas is the most unselfish of all holidays. We want to make others smile, and the innumerable charities and individuals who work tirelessly to ensure that those who are lonely or living with limited means can still both give and receive gifts is an example of the best that Christmas—and the Christmas spirit—has to offer. It is difficult to dislike a holiday that is so focused on spreading good cheer.
If you are a Christian, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the only son of God, who was sent to provide a path to salvation for all, is a time of both great hope and personal reflection. Given that we are all flawed and prone to misdeeds should we allow our worst instincts to overtake us, this is a time to consider what we might have done wrong during the year just ending and how we can be better people during the year ahead. One need not, of course, be a devout Christian to take this time of the year to think carefully and deeply about the blessings we have and how to best share them with others.
Christmas can be a rough time for those who are beset by difficulties or mourning the loss of those whom they have loved, so this season can be poignant as well as joyful. However, because this is by design a season of renewal, Christmas can also offer an opportunity to gather one’s strength to meet the challenges that inevitably face us in life. Given the many complexities and contradictions that all of us must navigate as we deal with strangers, colleagues, friends, neighbors, our families in particular, and society at large, we all need a time when we can, amidst all the hustle and bustle of the season, find a quiet moment to ourselves to ponder the course of our limited days on earth—and how we can make them better for both ourselves and others.
Humans can be a stubborn and selfish species, but we are also capable of great grace and generosity if given the opportunity. If we listen more to those who seek conciliation and cooperation and ignore those who insist—for their own pitiable reasons—on promoting conflict and controversy, we can make better lives for ourselves and others. A successful nation cannot subsist on hatred and suspicion, and we must consider how to be the best we can be during the troubled days that most certainly lie ahead for America. To do otherwise would be to neglect the innate wonders of Christmas and all that it entails.
So let us all, as the song goes, have ourselves a “Merry Little Christmas” and find the warmth and joy that we all need today—and will need for the year just around the corner.
My very best wishes to each and everyone as America, Americans—and the world—prepare to enjoy this blessed time together.