The fellowship and the food. The lights and the music. The decorations and the gifts. There are so many reasons to love this season. But the greatest of Christmas blessings may well be the idealism, that innocent longing for joy and fulfillment, which overtakes us on an annual basis. The song of old rings in our ears: it’s the time of the year when the world falls in love.
We pray or wish without irony that the spirit of the season may last the whole year round, knowing full well it never does, especially in these troubled times when simple, civilized conversations with a critical mass of our fellow citizens seem impossible. We willingly set aside our inherent cynicism over Christmas, even as we recognize the certainty that it will resume with the arrival of a new year. But we do it anyway. Even hardened nihilists are prone to catching the fever. Our yuletide suspension of disbelief is so real that it even includes open discussion of Santa Claus as a real person (wait a minute, he’s not?).
We greet people we would ignore for the first eleven months of the calendar. Our generosity dwarfs that of normal day-to-day life. We actually live out the biblical imperative that it is better to give than receive. Charity suddenly flows from instinct rather than guilt or duty. Our better angels emerge to conquer our inner Scrooge as we shop ‘til we drop for others and give out of the goodness of our heart (ignoring the part of it inclined to cynicism), expecting nothing in return (well, most of us anyway).
We willingly shoehorn exhausting but endearing rituals and random acts of kindness into our already ambitious schedules. We greet random strangers we would otherwise pass without notice during the rest of the year, offering the revived greeting “Merry Christmas” (or “happy holidays” for non-believers and those stubbornly clinging to political correctness in the era of Trump – hey, it’s still better than nothing). For a precious fortnight, our nice genes triumph over our naughty ones. For a precious fortnight, our nice genes triumph over our naughty ones.
For a precious fortnight, our nice genes triumph over our naughty ones.
So, as we count our blessings of the advent season in this year of our Lord 2018, we should not fail to appreciate – in ourselves and others – the idealism of December which proves so elusive in February or May or October. In the precious few quiet moments of the season, this should allow us to consider how our Christmas state of mind can be employed in service of something larger than ourselves, our immediate circle of friends and family, and our favorite charities.
Is it overly idealistic to employ what George H.W. Bush memorably termed “the vision thing” in focusing gently on how our nation and our world can come up higher? In the spirit of charity central to the season, can we walk a mile in the moccasins of people who stubbornly cling to what we consider misguided ideologies? Is it foolish and naïve to believe that things we dismiss with the wave of the hand in January or March or September are actually possible?
Idealism is much derided in a fallen and cynical world. It is often used as invective to dismiss the beliefs of those who see the world differently. But it’s a bad rap, for a world devoid of idealism – and love – is nothing more than a world poisoned by cynicism – and hatred.
So, Merry Christmas. And by the way … world peace, anyone?