23 December 2008

Christmas spirit

I've written about Advent and Christmas expectations several times during December. With retirement has come significantly increased contemplation time. Living a mindful Advent this time around, while being a distinct (and unfamiliar) pleasure, has been a challenge as well. I have actually found myself looking at the whole of the Christmas hoohaa through disbelieving eyes, wondering what in the world we're all so frenetically trying to do, to feel, to experience, to prove. What is the point of all the craziness?

Midway throught the season I had a conversation with a friend who told me with some sadness that given the economic turn down, with many members of his family living far enough away that they are going to miss seeing each other this year, since he has demanding work difficuties bearing down on him he was not at all in the Christmas spirit. I was satisfied with my response to him, having suggested that Christmas joy isn't an all the time promise (despite what print, television, internet ad campaigns proclaim), that Christmas spirit can be a matter perhaps of mere, fleeting moments of unexplainable contentment which must be noticed and acknowledged and savored.

Satisfaction with the answer aside, however, long after his departure -- for days not hours -- I let that sad admission roll around in my head. That the approach of Christmas leaves a vast number of people poor in spirit, not to mention financially poor, seems a tragedy. The astounding promise of God with us is lost, not to mention rendered meaningless by the way we choose to observe it.

Tal and I woke up this morning at Pawleys Island and have enjoyed a long, leisurely day with my parents -- eating, talking, resting. During the late morning we enjoyed a 14 hole, vigorous walk on the golf course prior to the begin of play, the overnight freeze having made for a delay in starting times. This afternoon we took a short trip to Litchfield Books, a superb, local bookstore where I found a journal for the new year. More than once through the day I caught my own attention, knowing to the marrow of my bones that what I was experiencing could be no less than joy. Nothing flamboyant. No giddiness. Not a firework in sight. Just a sure knowledge that I was in the right place, doing the right things, profoundly aware of the present -- enjoying and grateful for it. Ah, the stuff of Christmas spirit.

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