Wow, I cannot believe it is time once again to write a Christmas article. This year has flown by! I must admit that the end of this year has really caught me by surprise. This was to be a year full of changes and new opportunities. Looking back, I can see that it was but I also feel like I have missed a lot. Back in 2011, I wrote an article titled “Too Busy for Christmas” about how we needed to slow down and enjoy the holiday. This year, I realize I could have titled that article “Too Busy for Life.” I believe that being too busy is a disease that has spread across every aspect of our lives and has affected the way that we interact with our friends, family, and more broadly, fellow humans on a daily basis.
The older I get, the more I recognize the passage of time. As a child, Christmas was something you waited the whole year for and it took forever to come around. Time would slow down even more once December 1st hit. The anticipation, the traditions, the wonder, and the excitement was sometimes too much for a child to bear, yet children treasure every moment of it. Now, like birthdays or even just the passing of another day, the Christmas season serves more as a reminder of lost time than of fond memories to be made. It is yet another marker of time flying by and lost moments forever gone.
Yet, even as an adult, there is something about the hours between Christmas Eve and the end of Christmas day that, if only for a moment, changes us. Time does slow down. We feel the excitement and wonder through our children’s eyes. Life just seems complete for those few 48 hours. So, what is it about Christmas that is so special? I am not talking about the hustle and bustle of the season, or all the cooking, and cleaning, and preparing, and juggling of family and friends. I am talking about those few moments, maybe even just seconds, that get etched into our minds each year, that rejuvenate our souls in an instant, that take us back to our childhoods, that make the whole would seem to stand still. What makes those fleeting moments that make Christmas seem so magical?
As a cynic who battles with depression (of course, I prefer to just call myself a realist), I have never been one to put much weight on the “magic” of Christmas. Yet, as an academic and observer of people, I can’t ignore that there is a measurable effect that Christmas has on most. For good and for bad, Christmas is a very emotional day for many. My theory is that the 48 hours between Christmas Eve and the end of Christmas Day is one of the few times in our lives that we actually STOP to engage with life and the world around us. Memories seem more vivid, and thus more meaningful, because we actually take the time to capture mental photographs of what is happening around us. For those few hours, we stop thinking about ourselves, our jobs, and our stress. We allow ourselves to just live in the moment. To bask in the smile of a child, to cozy up next to the smell of hot coffee and cinnamon rolls in the morning, to savor the tastes of the Christmas meal, to rest in the glow of the Christmas tree lights as the day comes to an end.
Christmas is so meaningful to most of us because it is one of the rare occasions where we allow ourselves to live in the world around us, as opposed to merely reacting to the world. As I said above, the older I get, the more aware I become of the passing time. It is in these moments that I have to wonder what life would be like if we lived like it was Christmas every day? I don’t mean by eating too much and presenting lavish gifts to our loved ones. I mean, what if we took each day and cherished it, and loved it, and basked in the peace and the glory found in the fact that God created another day just for us? Perhaps Christmas would seem a little less magical, but imagine what we could accomplish. Imagine if each hug from our child was relished as much as the Christmas morning hugs. What if we took a picture of every smile? What if we paid attention to the humanity of those around us every day?
You may be thinking that this is the description of some sort of unachievable utopia that can never exist in our high pressure modern world. Well, let me counter with this. For those of you you have been following my writings for some time now, you know me. You know that I have been through loss, failure, injury and even betrayal. You have read, even just up above, how I am admittedly a depressed cynic. Yet, despite all of this, I am even more resolved to cut myself off from bowing to the pressures of this world and instead strive each day to live in the moment. I have played the world’s game and I have won, and I have lost, but none of it matters when I see the smile on my son’s face or the love and compassion in my wife’s eyes. These are the things that matter and life is too short to only pay attention for 48 hours once a year, during a time called Christmas.