There is no question that my favorite season of the year is Christmas time. Summer is delightful (especially here in the Pacific Northwest, where summer is never too hot) and I do enjoy Thanksgiving as much as the next guy (unless the next guy is Joshua, who REALLY loves Thanksgiving). I always enjoy my birthday, although the last few have been a bit lonely, with Kathy out of town.
But there is something really unique about the anticipation, the wonder; the nearly-universal joy that is Christmas. Sure, people get stressed about the season – buying too much and trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, but even so, there is something quite special about focusing on the Advent of the Savior of the World, and seeking to show love as much as possible to others.
When I was a little boy, my Dad used to tell a story about a Christmas gathering he had attended (or maybe only imagined) in which a bratty child feverishly unwrapped a generous pile of presents on Christmas morning. When there was nothing left under the tree, the boy looked around angrily. “Is that ALL?” he whined. (My Dad can imitate a really impressive whine.)
This boy was held up as the pinnacle of the height of ingratitude – we all knew that we didn’t want to be identified with that child in any way. I can only hope he never existed, and was only a product of my Dad’s inventive mind.
Truth be told, there is a part of all of us that is just the tiniest bit disappointed when Christmas is ‘over’. When the last presents have been opened, and the visiting relatives have gone home, and the leftovers have become passe’ – when all is said and done, there is a sense of a bit of a let-down.
January is a cold and rainy month in Western Washington – usually too cold and damp for comfort and too warm for snow. The contrast between the warmth and color and joy of the Christmas season is rather stark, and I find myself unwilling to venture out into the relative ‘cold’ of the New Year.
So I don’t. I keep listening to Christmas Carols and I refuse to even consider taking down the Christmas tree. I leave the lights on the outside of my house burning each night, taking a defiant (and I dare say, heroic) stand against the turning of the seasons. “What does January have to offer, that I should take down the lights?” I ask anyone who questions my unflagging Christmas Spirit.
But my wife likes variety, and is a bit more forward-looking than I am. Even though our tree is fake, she begins to pine (pun intended) for change, and to reclaim the space lost when the Christmas decorations descend upon the house. Even my children (who ought to be on my side) begin to raise an eyebrow when they hear me relentlessly playing Christmas music on my computer.
This year, my wife was very crafty. She slowly (and rather sneakily) put away the decorations, bit by bit, until only the tree and the outside lights remained as a bastion against the tide of progress. Waiting until I was out of town for a Men’s Retreat, she whisked away the tree and the outside lights. When I came home, it was a ‘fait accompli’, with only the ‘extra’ tree in our bedroom still remaining.
Even that tree was subjected to a transformation, of sorts.
“It’s a Valentine’s Tree,” she told me, smugly.