There’s nothing worse than watching the evening news at Christmas time. After a lovely afternoon of tree trimming, cookie baking, and singing along with the Christmas station to get in the spirit of the holiday season, into your home barge the top stories of the 10 o’clock news, pulling you right back down into the mire of anxiety.
Osama bin Laden continues to plot our demise, and our government is still struggling to define a strategy that will defeat this strange new enemy. The ACLU is chomping at the bit to sue any school district/court house/city park that dares make reference to the “Christ” of Christmas–so don’t even think about decorating your daughter’s class cupcakes with crosses. Charity is being trampled under the wheels of commerce, as Target decides that Santa-clad Salvation Army workers, whose cheerful bells have always called on Americans to remember the worst-off among us, are a nuisance and not allowed on store property. Even Macy’s, the one-time home of Miracle on 34th Street, has become a source of uncertainty, no longer allowing employees to wish beleaguered shoppers a “Merry Christmas.”
“Enough already!” You want to shout. “All I wanted was to enjoy Christmas with my family the way we used to. It’s starting to feel like there isn’t anything we can count on anymore!”
Well, it may feel that way, but the truth is, even in our rapidly changing world, there are some things we can trust to stay the same year after reliable year. So instead of letting the controversy-obsessed media get us down, why not reflect on Christmas’s constants?
Take the children’s Christmas choir, for instance. No matter how much Sunday-school teachers rehearse them, and no matter how many times moms and dads review the words and hand-motions at home, without fail, on the morning of the big performance, in churches across the country, the charming little cherubs will find something they’d rather be doing on stage than singing. (My three-year-old niece, for example, thought hopping up and down on the riser steps and pasting her name-tag over her mouth would be more fun than singing her solo. Though her mother was a bit chagrined, the rest of us thought she was priceless!)
Another constant: Our healthy American spirit of competition. Never is it on greater display than during the holidays, as dads try to construct ever-brighter, ever-bigger, ever-more-fire-hazardous spectacles of Christmas lights, just to outdo Bob down the street. Bob may be the boss the rest of the year, but during Christmas, he’s just the guy who couldn’t get his inflatable Santa to stay on the roof. (Death isn’t the great equalizer–Christmas lights are.)
Or how about those few extra holiday pounds we all put on every year? Instead of bemoaning the time we’ll have to spend on the Stairmaster come January, why not look at them as the comforting, dependable visitors they are. You may not be able to tell co-workers that you had a merry Christmas, but they’ll be able to see by your hips that you did.
But the most reassuring constant? The fact that God’s miraculous gift to mankind on the night of Christ’s birth can never be legislated away. Even if the worst happened and the ACLU succeeded in outlawing the public celebration of Christmas, the private celebration in our hearts could never be banned.
So rest assured, even in our era of color-coded “security alerts,” when we can’t wish a shopkeeper “Merry Christmas” without fear of offending, we still have the security of securities–the gift of life with Jesus Christ. And once you have that assurance, all other concerns melt away…insubstantial as so much Christmas snow.
–Megan Basham is a freelance writer in Phoenix, Arizona, and a current Phillips Foundation fellow.