Should I be looking for that perfect gift? Is there something wrong with me if I don't want to give the perfect gift or have stopped looking? What if I don't like choosing presents for people, or shopping in general? If I'd rather opt out of wrapping, decorating, and filling and/or facing down a table full of sweets?
I envy the husbands of some of my friends, the kind of guys who have someone else to plan events and buy presents and write cards and sign their name. Must be nice to be a man! Now and again and in small doses I enjoy these celebratory arts, but this time of year it's all at once, and the more there is the less it seems to mean.
But it is what it is, and I go along with all of it, awkwardly, longing for the clean, crisp days of January.
It helps to acknowledge to myself that it's not that I'm right, and the others are wrong. Shopping and wrapping and parties and decorating and eating together are ways as good as any to show love, good will, and generosity. I can give those things, and I can receive them, even as I object to the huge helpings all at once.
Maybe next year I'll get more Silent Night, Holy Night, and Peace on Earth.
What does bring a sweetness to my soul, tears to my eyes, and cause my Grinchy heart to grow three sizes larger? There are some elements of Christmas - even Christmas in secular 21st-century America - that do. Every time I click on a link to watch one of those Hallelujah Chorus videos that are going viral on the internet (here's today's), I start to cry. What is it that makes that piece so glorious? Whatever it is about those melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, the lyrics cap it for me:
King of kings, and Lord of lords / And He shall reign / And He shall reign forever and ever
How wonderful it will be to take our place in a kingdom that will last forever, not to be in charge but to be under the care of a completely trustworthy and loving authority, in a place where both rest and work are redeemed and there will be no more struggling.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”