It has been a strange Advent. I have been rushed off my feet and really not been able to enjoy the Christmas season at all this year. And now I have lost my voice (a blessing for others I like to call it). But it has helped me with one thing. I never understood fully the stresses that Christmas can put you under. Intellectually I got it, but that’s not the same as emotionally getting it.
We all know this but really we’re trying to hard. We try to condense the magic we wish we could feel all the time into a 4 week period and we try to get hold of that magic through food, drink, presents, friends, music. We want everything to be the childlike form of play we remember from our own past or we see in our children or worse, the ideal Christmas we see on tv.
Perhaps childlike is the wrong word, perhaps a better word would be childish. It’s not possible for those of us who aren’t children to play in that completely care free way we aspire to. We belong to the adult world where bills have to be paid, where life can be hard, where there is always something still to do. And at Christmas our belief that we should have that kind of play experience becomes almost pathological. This is one of the reasons we put ourselves under so much stress. And end up not enjoying ourselves at all.
What is the adult way to enjoy and play at Christmas? To be conscious of what we really do have at Christmas and try to distance the voices that tell us how much more we “need”. To allow those around us – grown-ups and children – their space to play without demandinng they play with us or that we play first. To participate in the Church’s rituals of Christmas in order to clear a space for God to pop in. And to ignore such rituals as the ritual argument on Christmas afternoon, the ritual of backbiting about the relatives, the ritual of getting pissed and falling asleep when the children would like to show you their toys etc etc.
Christmas can be magical in an adult way when we really consider what God did for us again. How he came to us – not as we would expect, but as the poorest of the poor, in an oppressed nation, born amidst the cow shit. Think about that and you might find something magical sneaking it’s way back into your heart.