The presents have been exchanged, unwrapped and the trash taken out. Exchanges for different sizes are in the works and we may be regretting all the rich food and desserts. The decorations are already starting to look less shiny and the Christmas tree looks sad without the abundance of presents underneath it. The Salvation Army bell ringers have stored away their red buckets and bells for next year and Bing Crosby doesn’t sound the same on December 28 as he did on Christmas Eve.
The excitement of Christmas is quickly fading.
Isn’t that how it always is? We go to so much trouble to decorate and shop, we bake and bake and bake (at least I bake and bake and bake) and we wring our hands over what to get the person who has everything. But once all the wrapping paper has been thrown away and every last Christmas dish has been washed and dried, we are left exhausted. The idea of a “long winter’s nap” has a different meaning then when we read the story on Christmas Eve and sounds very appealing right about now.
During the season of Advent we (try to) put away our differences and arguments for the sake of the season. After all, Christmas is about family and Joy to the World. We set aside politics and self-righteous indignation for one meal around a crowded table…at least we try because Christmas reminds us that we can still hold a place in our hearts and lives for the people we love regardless of our differences.
But Christmas is over and the Spirit of Christmas is just something we save for the movies and tell our kids so they will stop being brats, right?
So now what? Is it back to business as usual…being angry at people for wearing a mask or not wearing a mask? Are we back to letting our opinions trump civility? Do we stop seeing the person on the street through the eyes of St. Nickolas and once again see them as a blight on our community? Are we back to canceling the people we disagree with? Because that’s pretty much how we were living our lives before December.
So now what? Was December just a momentary respite from how angry we are all the time? Surely we can’t live our lives like it’s always Christmas. That would just be ridiculous, right? Being an adult means we have to be serious and angry and outraged all the time, right? I mean that’s how we have been living our lives for the past few years, at least that’s what it feels like. Suggesting we take Christmas with us into the rest of the year is naive and childlike, right? That’s just for Christmas card tag lines that go into the trash with the crumpled up wrapping paper and broken ornaments.
Or perhaps not. Perhaps we don’t have to pack away our compassion, humanity, and civility with the star tree topper.
What would happen if we turned off the endless cycle of cable news? What would happen if we stopped doom scrolling? Maybe it’s possible to treat people with kindness even when we don’t agree with them. Maybe it’s possible to hold on to our values and hold people accountable for their actions without throwing them away.
So now what? If we truly believe that Christmas is God with us then Christmas is redemption and hope even through we don’t deserve it. That is something that doesn’t end when we take down the twinkle lights. Perhaps turning off the hate we consume through media just might allow us to carry Christmas with us throughout the year. Perhaps if we prioritize peacemaking and building bridges we can experience the joy of Christmas beyond December.