Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Birthday Thought for the Holidays

Today is my birthday. And for the first time in a number of years it will not mark the beginning of what I can only call my "holiday hibernation"; the period from now til January 2nd, where I insulate my physical and spiritual presence from what I have percieved as the dysfunction of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Growing older and wiser dictates this change of heart, and I am happy to oblige.

I am longing for the days of hot cocoa, russian tea and caroling door to door. I want Jesus and Santa to coexist once again. I want to sit on Santa's lap on Saturday, sing "Silent Night" on Sunday without having to defend it in a court on Monday; I want to bake cookies for an elementary school's homeroom Christmas party...

For years I have watched religion and retail muddy the waters of the holidays...retail sales projections have replaced Jesus and Santa.

I have been cursed out for offering a heartfelt,  "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas". I am almost afraid to say "hello" anymore...

Two years ago, I watched "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and thought Dr. Suess was mocking me...

My heart aches for the parents shopping in Wal-Mart's toy department each year, exhausted by their efforts to keep up with the Jones', watching as their spoiled "seed" drops to the floor in a fit of rage so violent as to require an exorcism...all because mom or dad has denied their request for latest talking toy, action figure or gaming system. The economy is telling some parents and most children "no" for the first time in their lives and neither is taking it well.

I empathize with women who must prepare to share their holidays with the mother-in-law who does not like them; the families whose dysfunction keeps them at bay 364 days a year, gathering over a year's worth of fat, salt and sugar just to make sure they remian in the will for another year; the households who view sitting in the dark on the day after Christmas as the required sacrifice for making sure that their kids "got Christmas".

This year, I am determined not to simply withdraw from this holiday-challenged world. Mind you, I won't be found in a Wal-mart between the day after Thanksgiving and New Year's Day (I don't like crowds any time of the year). But you will be able to find me. I may gather a motley group of singers and go caroling; I may sing to a crying child (or parent, but not at Wal-Mart). I may simply "be"; present and accounted for, rather than tucked away in my own darkness.

I wrote and read the poem which follows in 2008 for a Christmas program at Benedict College. May it remind you to be true to the reason that you celebrate the upcoming holiday season.

Peace on Earth and good will toward ALL men,



Away in a Manger

Away in a manger--
lay your savior in swaddling clothes
while wise Persians ransom gifts from abroad
and angels sing the good news.

Or is the manger away?
in dark corners of the hearts and minds of believers;
lying latent among big and flat screens, play stations, Coach,
and Claiborne
and Baby Phat--
camouflaged by debt and self-imposed obligation?

Away in the manger--
a promise of hope and a plan for your future
wait patiently for you.

Come away to the manger!
where faith
and peace
and love
infinitely reside.

Come away to the manger!
and away
from “Christmas” concern--

Remember this
and do not let
the manger get away.

©2008 Camille Gray. All rights reserved.
May not be reprinted or used in any manner without the author's written permission