The time has come once again for my clichéd Christmas reflection. I know you have been looking forward to this moment all year, some probably hoping I would forget, and thus, here it is: My Christmas Reflection. Small children should probably leave the theater. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “White Christmas.” If sung well, the vocals are haunting, the music pleasant, and the words comforting. “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas / Just like the ones I used to know.” The words speak to me, although the second line of the song, quoted above, is the sole exception. I cannot remember a White Christmas because I’ve never had one. I’ve dreamed and hoped for them, sure, but I’ve never actually had a real White Christmas (flurries don’t count).
This brings up the distressing situation of this reflection. This year has had record low temperatures around the world. Snow has fallen around the country. Even Malibu had snow last week. Malibu, California! You know, with the beaches, and palm trees, and girls running around in bikinis? Yeah, they got freaking snow. So did up north (which has been getting it since November). But guess who hasn’t gotten any snow. That’s right, the DC area. Oh we’ve had plenty of precipitation and low temperatures, but not at the same time. While everywhere else was freezing and being smothered in snowdrifts, we were drowning in rain (uncomfortably 35 degree rain). It’s sort of unfair, seemingly unjust, and all around depressing. Which brings me to my next topic.
For many, Christmas is a depressing time of year. Suicides skyrocket during this time of year. Maybe it’s because people are lonely. They found out their spouse has been cheating on them, they got laid off, their girl/boyfriend dumped them, they realize they are dying, or they just realize that they miss home. Whatever the reason, people decide it is the time around Christmas that would be the best time to take their life.
This does not have to be the case. It shows a real distress among our world. Christmas has become a superficial day, not one of hope and love, but one of stress or partying. This is not Christmas. New Years, maybe, but not Christmas. This is the time devoted to Christ’s birth. This is a time to remember that God became Man to save us. He didn’t have to, but he did. It is the focal point of history, the poetic climax, the answer to all philosophy, the solution to the sciences, and the summit of Theology. This reality is incompatible with the modern consumer, and by extension, the suicide, mentality.
Pope Benedict XVI, several years before he became pope, collected some homilies and thoughts concerning Christmas into two different books. These two books, in turn, were collected recently into the book entitled The Blessing of Christmas. At one point in the book, Ratzinger notes the following concerning Christmas and the suffering Christian:
"If God exists, then there is no meaningless time, no time devoid of significance. Every moment has its value, even if all I an do is to endure my illness in silence. If God exists, then there is always something to hope for, even where no human voice can any longer summon me to hope. And old age and retirement are no longer the last stage of my life, a position from which all I can do is look backwards: for something greater always lies ahead, and it is precisely the time of an apparent uselessness that can be the highest form of human ripening. Christian hope does not devalue time. On the contrary, it means that every moment of life possesses its own value; it means that we can accept the present and that we out to live it to the full because everything we have accepted in our heart will remain." (Joseph Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI], The Blessing of Christmas, p. 26)
This is the meaning of Christmas, having faith and hope on God’s promises, and loving Him for those very same promises. Those who have abandon hope take their own lives, but those who hold fast to that faith, hope, and charity not only keep their lives, but find their lives anew, flourishing in the darkness of winter.
May you have a Merry Christmas.