I’m not sure the way Advent and Christmas are usually celebrated is much to my liking… It’s all about words like “falalalala” and “glooo-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-hooo-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-hooo-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-hoooria” (come on, you can do it…), and inevitably, the realities of our lives will clash with the ‘smiliness’ that seems to be part of the decorations of the season.
Because it’s in the calendar, we suddenly feel the need to pretend that we are joyful and happy social butterflies, enjoying ourselves in a crowd of people when some of us don’t find that enjoyable at any other time of the year. But now, after all, there’s mulled wine, and mince pies and gifts and songs to sing… So all must be well, including all the dynamics between us and others that aren’t actually in any sort of cheerful balance. A sheen of glitter is added to life, covering up all the murky bits like the first snow covers every ugly street corner. It’s not real. Nothing has changed. It’s the same lives and the same people underneath it all.
This is the season in which after every ‘jolly’ hour I spend with a group of people I go home with a sense of sadness.
It’s a traditional feeling by now.
And I will still walk through the next few weeks as I have many times before, I will sing carols and eat turkey and smile and chat, and from time to time I will go somewhere quiet and close my eyes and feel how I really am.
And then I’ll return to the room with the Christmas tree and the gifts and people who may well be feeling something not all that different from me, and we’ll go on celebrating together, a little bit trying to m a k e joy while joy is not what we’re feeling.
For me, some part of the sadness is to do with the knowledge that after being in a group of particularly smiley, familiar people for the celebrations, I’ll be going to a home where no one is waiting for me. But I don’t think that’s all it is. I think it might actually be more about how I live Christmas, how we all live the season:
Christmas is an extrovert’s paradise. And an extrovert is not who I am.
Advent also raises expectations on some subconscious level that ‘something special’ is about to happen, not just symbolically or spiritually. And then everything still stays the same.
And then there’s New Year’s Eve, which I have come to dislike quite intensely, really, partly because I hate the hopes such a random day raises, the artificial pressure and expectations that are projected onto this day. And again, it’s very much an extrovert occasion…
In the end, Christmas is about an ordinary and messy and difficult experience, lived by people who really did not know how to ‘fix their lives’ and who were not prepared for anything that was going on. And everything that felt like a problem to them has become a story we now treasure and tell and remember and celebrate…because somewhere in all this ordinary, unfixable mess, something extraordinary happened, something completely new was created which changed everything, and at the time, only a small bunch of people noticed that anything was different than it had been before.
I wish that, for once, we could come together at Christmas as we are, without all the jingle-bells pretence of cheer, our seasonal bravado.
I wish we could just be more silent, and share time together in which there is space for us to know and be open about the unfixable bits of mess in our lives, and to hear the angels say, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you.” There might be space then to notice the difference it makes.
No reindeer jumpers and prescribed jolliness under which we can’t hear a thing any angel might be saying.
Nothing can change in us if we don’t hear that voice.
I think quite a few of the people I know may be having some of this in their hearts as well, while we are still all living the ‘social event’ that Christmas is.
I’d like to have less of everything instead of more. I’d like the remembrance of God being born in a messy way into a painful world to be the main event of the season.
And I’d find New Year’s Eve prayers infinitely preferable to crowds and noise.
I may even be able to do something about that…