Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

I know you have experienced it, upon waking from a wonderful dream, the feeling that you did not want to wake up yet. And have you kept your eyes tightly closed, willing the dream to continue, willing yourself to remain asleep, willing that life created within your mind to continue? Have you tried with all your might to let it be so?

It is already the twelfth day of Christmas, and the final hours of the spirit of Christmas Present are upon us. I no longer find the winter wind invigorating and tolerable, merely uncomfortable, the once picturesque snowy hillsides simply cold and bleak; and I have spent the last week trying to remain asleep, trying my best to allow the warmth of Christmas to continue, trying not to awaken from the most wonderful Christmas I have experienced in many years—perhaps even since my (now grown) children were little, or maybe even since I was a child myself.

There have been years when Christmas came and went without much ado, when I seemed to simply go through the motions of preparation without much expectation or meaning, and was just as happy to pack away the season with its glittery accoutrement and forget about it for another year. There have been, sadly, Christmases past when I saw only the extra work mounted upon me. Not often, but there were times...

I don't know what changed this year that caused such joy in my heart during the season, and this great sadness that it is now over. Perhaps, as we age and come to a more profound belief of mortality, things we often have taken for granted—or in which we have shown little interest—become ever more consequential. Did I give the season a more spiritual significance? Perhaps. But, for me, honoring God and celebrating His Son's birth (and, thereby, our reclamation) have always been "the reason for the season". Without that, all the little things we do in preparation to make Christmas sparkle with excitement are simply things we do. They have no significance or impact.

I prepared for the holiday and celebrated with family as always. We ate and laughed and played as always, "for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself..." (from "A Christmas Carol"). But perhaps there was one small difference which transformed everything for me this year.

I have always been enamored with, and have always made it a point to watch at least one of the "A Christmas Carol" productions each year. In the few weeks before Christmas, I kept hearing over and over in my head the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, upon his realization of what the gift of life really means, and what our response to, and responsibility in life is:

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. 

So I set out to give life to his pledge, thereby making it my own. There is a saying of St. John of the Cross that I have long loved and which has always resonated within me: "Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love." This is not so different from Scrooge's declaration, is it? And, perhaps, that is how this Christmas was transformed for me, where this Christmas differed for me, where Christmas—or any day of the year—can differ for us all. I approached the season with love from beginning to end, in the decorations, the food I prepared, arranging special "events" and activities to share with others to mark the season, to elevate it from the ordinary. I put so much love into the things I did and experienced that I could hardly contain myself. And so, now that it is over—for this year— I am so filled that it has no place to spill over but in tears, as I think fondly of how we laughed and loved this Christmas.

I am not ready to awaken from the dream, or give up the ghost—of Christmas Past or otherwise—but I must be fully awake and aware of all the gifts of Christmas in order to let the dream live on. To ignore these gifts and lessons of Christmas would be much too costly.  I think this is the way we should—must—approach not only Christmas, but every day on this earth, fully awake and aware,  living (as I was recently reminded) each day truly as if it were our last, in full realization of the magnitude of the gift of life...

Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!...It is required of every man..."that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!

Let it never be said of us that we did not know Christmas or the gifts it brings to us which live through the year. We can then begin to understand each other, who we are, where we are going, who God is. We are here for a purpose. Let us strive, with 'ol Ebenezer, to wake up and find that purpose, with each other...
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more...He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world...and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!

Peace, Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!