This time of the year is hard for many people as the twin specters of family and financial stress loom. Not everyone is making the miracle work. But underneath all of that material duress is the actual spirit of Christmas, the opportunity to get over ourselves and our problems and connect with our family, friends and coworkers and even something larger than ourselves.
(try listening to this while reading)
My first Christmas memory was coming down the stairs in the middle of the night to the soft glow of the lights on the tree and seeing an abundance of gifts that appeared magically in the middle of the night. I had never experienced such wonder before. Santa had come. The myth was real.
Later that year my friend Victor would be run over and killed by a speeding teenager running the cross walk light. We'd been charged by his and my parents to walk to school together for our mutual safety. I got a detention that day for yapping in class and he walked home with another kid. My strongest memory from that was that I had been spared for some purpose.
My parents got divorced when I was eleven. The previous Christmas a few months earlier, I found out who Santa really was as I made the mistake of looking out the window of my bedroom to see my father bringing in the following morning's bounty.
My little brother was mesmerized at the sight the next morning. Presents under the tree, cookie crumbs and orange peels everywhere, a glass of milk knocked over on the dining room table, reindeer shit all over the carpet (which was really elk droppings he had picked up in Banff and had been storing in the freezer all year) and the charred, burned-our skeletons of the previous nights fire kicked on to the floor as proof Santa really did come down the chimney. It turns out my father, who never had a father and never really had Christmas really put his back into ours. Santa never came to my house again.
This year we did our office Christmas party a little bit differently. A great many interesting folks gathered in the home of our Host. We mingled, imbibed and noshed, and then went in large buses to see the Tenors perform their Christmas concert. Afterwards we came back to our Host's home, Tenors in tow for cookies and community singing. I had a great chance to connect with the three singers I had coached years before on their journey to their first Juno. I left with a feeling of peace I had not really had at this time of years since I was a young boy–before the death of friends, the death of families and the death of innocence.
There is so much to live for. The challenges of a scary world can wait for the New Year. They and the great opportunities they represent will be there for us to face soon enough. Knowing that we can be facing them together gives us all the little bit of hope we need. Maybe that's the purpose of these next few days.
All the best from my family to your family.