This year, I’ve been having a difficult time getting into the Christmas spirit this season. Heck, I’ve had difficulty even defining what “is” the Christmas spirit.
For my kids, the season is (still) about presents. When asked to draft a letter to Santa requesting one gift that could be bought and one that had to come from God, my 8-year-old son Steve listed his gift from God as an iPad 18. I asked how that was from God, hoping to prompt him to choose something more appropriate, like a new friend or more courage; instead, he replied that the iPad 18 hasn’t been invented yet, so only God could give it to him.
I’ve heard all kinds of strategies for reigning in the madness and selfishness that can be associated with Christmas. Ideas range from service and shopping for needy children to the “3 gift Christmas” making the rounds recently (an idea intended to replicate the gifts of the three wise men where everyone receives only three gifts on Christmas – one needful, one joyful, and one meaningful).
I’m a sucker for traditions, so I don’t knock any of these as ways to make the holiday more special, but no matter how many refugees and foster children we buy for, and no matter how few presents we buy the kids, it’s still a big focal point for them. I’m beginning to wonder if instead of taking the essence of childhood out of the children, we might want to adopt some of it as our own.
What if Christmas became a time in our year where we could connect with our inner-child – the one who looks at the world through believing eyes convinced that anything is possible? What if for one night of the year, we got giddy with anticipation of something great? What if we opened ourselves up to possibility rather than tempered our hopes with reality?
When I look closely, I don’t see selfishness in the present giving and getting on the part of my children. Those who haven’t been tainted with reality are rather generous in what they want to give and receive. They honestly believe there is enough and to spare, that their own happiness and abundance is not contingent on lack for someone else.
Singing “What Child Is This?” yesterday, I contemplated what child I am in the sense of how God might see me and what in my life might need to be hastened. I thought about what I feel called to do in the world and what gift I might have to share that would make angels sing. And I thought about Mary and her human-divine partnership which created a miracle, and how I might partner with the divine to bring about something special to the world.
Sure, I’ll give you that money doesn’t buy happiness and neither does a visit from Santa. But there’s something about a child’s squeal of delight on Christmas morning we might want to learn from. There are 364 other days of the year to be the Grinch.
How do you answer the question What Child Is This?
*”What Child is This?” artwork by mandiemichel