Saturday, November 24, 2012

Jury's Still Out On Christmas.

Tis the season.

Hallmark begins the deluge of offerings such as "The Meaning of Christmas" and "The Heart of Christmas" and "The Family That Forgot Christmas Until A Cute Street Waif Appeared on Their Doorstep Holding A Scruffy Puppy And They Both Had Cancer" and of course, my personal favorite, "A Christmas Carol With Kareem Abdul Jabbar."

We have an average of seventeen magazines in our mailbox every day, and they mostly contain farting Santas and Thomas Kincaide treetoppers. They are trying to convince me that I need twelve of them, but I doubt that I need more than three.

Still, somewhere in this next thirty-plus days I am hoping that I can hang onto the - dare I say it? - real meaning of Christmas. I do not want to say that "Jesus is the reason for the season" in any other way except this individual paragraph. However, I am hoping to sidestep the Black Friday bloodlust and circle quietly around the sticky sentiment and excessive use of sleighbells. No doubt we will have a tree, and ornaments and gifts and errant bows escaping under the couch. After all, I do live in the greatest country on earth, and these are essentials in order to affirm patriotism.

What I am looking for is an inner silence. I am looking for the quiet certainty of holiness that rests between the branches of the cedars outside the window. I am listening for the deep silence that falls between the chirrups of the squirrels. I'm standing under maple trees, waiting for the leaves to fall, so I can hear what they have to say just before they come to their final rest. Even the slow breathing of the dog has that elusive peace in it that I am hungry for. Winter is supposed to be a time of regrouping, of slowing down, of listening to the snow fall and finding renewal in just resting and waiting. I am a walking ear, constantly straining to hear that complete and lovely shush.

When I was a kid, I would wait for the Sears Toy Catalog to come in the mail. It was about the size of a local white pages, usually with a red cover, and filled cover to cover with useless plastic objects that I honestly felt I could not live without. Rock tumbling kits. Sponges that turned into dinosaurs when you dropped them in water. Tiny replicas of ovens, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, farmhouses, entire supermarkets. I could not begin to imagine wasting my time looking at anything else other than the contents of that magical catalog, with all its multi-colored, Chinese-origined Barbies, Play-Doh sets, Legos and pogo sticks. It was magic. It was everything that made my heart beat fast. I pitied anyone who was too old and tired to understand the sheer majesty of a toy-encrusted Christmas.

Now, I have turned into someone else entirely. Don't get me wrong, I'm not that crusty old lady who thinks kids are horribly spoiled and everyone should be happy with getting a sock or a baked potato for Christmas. I'm not complaining, and I don't think that everything that comes from WalMart is inherently evil. I mean, last month I was celebrating because the local neighbor kids fell in love with my plastic zombie. I enjoy a good spiritual Twinkie with the best of 'em. But you can only shop and tinsel and wrap and ship via UPS and bake and twinkle for so long before you get lonely.

I think maybe that's a good sign. If I had to take a guess, I would guess that it means that peace is becoming less of a spiritual abstract that I hear about in sermons, and more like an essential. Like caffiene. Without it, I get a headache. You could say I am falling in love with peace. And I am wondering if I can find it this Christmas.

I know its there. I just have to get past farting Santa to touch it.

So that's why the jury is still out. Can I get past the stuff I do because 'tis the season' and find the stuff that lasts until the new leaves start to unfurl? Maybe. Maybe. I'm hopeful. I've also hedged my bets by starting my shopping ridiculously early, in the hopes of finishing before I grow to hate it. Before I find something else in a catalog I can't imagine living without.

Before I forget how to listen.

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