When I was younger I loved Christmas. The lights, the tree, the confusing carols tra-laa-ing about snow and sleighs while we were sweltering in thirty degree heat - I loved it all. Even a few years ago I remember counting down the sleeps, getting Christmas-ed up the whole month of December, and pushing through the mandatory family arguments to find that magic everyone talks about at this time of year.
But the past few years I haven't been able to find much (if any) of the elusive Christmas Spirit. At one of supposedly the happiest times of the year I seem to be finding myself dragging my feet in the cheer department. I still love the gift giving, and even with an incredibly tight budget this year, I've managed to shower my favourite people with gifts which I hope they will love. But even that was (horrifyingly) a struggle. And it seems I'm not the only one - so many people I've talked to the last few days seem to be feelin the same.
Friends and family are feeling lonely, sad, or just poor. Others are sick, anxious about looming problems, or have recently had a loved one pass away. Still more are just feeling like Christmas just came too fast and left them behind. For whatever reason it's just not the jolly season it should well be.
I went to church tonight and the readings, as is typical, were about the birth of Christ and the reason we celebrate this holiday in the first place - how he came into a world of pain and suffering to save us from the darkness. The Pastor talked about the beginnings of the Christmas Tree - a fir tree - (apparantly it was all Mr Martin Luther's idea - smart fella) and how it symbolised the growth of new life even in the deepest, coldest, darkest winter.
And I talked to my neighbour who's boys have been ill for the past 15 years, and still fight every day just to live without pain. She told me how the oldest one is still struggling to recover from surgery over a year ago, and how the youngest one is about to undergo a long process of similar procedures. And how a boy - the eldest's good freind who suffers from similar health problems - has just passed away. And, even with all that was happening in her life, the chance to spend Christmas with her family and neighbours was wonderous to her.
And I realised that maybe that's why so many people love Christmas so much - becuase even when everything is hell, Christmas - the ideal of goodness, and faith, and love that we celebrate through Jesus, and Santa, and just by giving gifts and spending time - that's why it's so important. It reminds us that even with all the bad stuff, deep down in the core of it all, this life is something special.
John reckons so too, so it must be true.
So, from me to you, I hope your Christmas is full of joy and happiness. But if it's not - if there's pain, or sadness, or loneliness, or if everything just seems too much, my thoughts and prayers are with you, and my hope is that you'll find some good at the heart of it all.