So Why Wasn't Christmas That "Merry"?
What this means, practically, is that I am one of those pernicious folks for whom "Happy Holidays" means the same thing as "Merry Christmas". One of those folks, in fact, against whom many Christians are "fighting back" (at least on Fox News!) to stem the tide of our innate propensity to bulldoze chreshes in public places and ban Christmas Carols referring to Christ, leaving a parched American savanna of nothing but 50% Christmas Eve sales, Burl Ives singing "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas!", and department store Santas with particularly cheap and tacky red plush and spectacularly unconvincing false beards. Oh, yes, and one of those folks trying to substitute Kwanzaa in its place!
Now if this seems a little exaggerated to you when applied to jolly old Joe Claus with his real beard and his Buddhist cohorts, you're correct. It is a little exaggerated. It is even a little exaggerated when applied to the other supporters of John Kerry in the last election, who, the pollsters and pundits tell us, believe overwhelmingly that religion should be "a private matter."
But it is a fact that our Christmas this year was far from Merry. And it was far from Merry even on my three favorite Conservative Religious Blogs: The Anchoress, One Hand Clapping, and La Shawn Barber, all of whom, one would presume, are in the vanguard--"muscular Christians" as they used to be called, "fighting back" on Fox News, The Washington Times, and Town Hall, and spreading the Good News of Incarnation and Salvation.
I even noted this to Reverend Sensing of One Hand Clapping:
I cannot forbear remarking that I see very little in the way of "good tidings of great joy" even on the blogs I read that are overtly Christian. They frankly seem subdued even in your Sermons for Advent.
The good Reverend was far too busy to reply, but his Christmas Eve sermon was on the dark, foreboding, and mysterious opening to the Gospel of John, rather than any stories of the Babe in a manger or Wise Men bearing gifts. There are no Christmas carols which I remember on the Word being made flesh, and decking the halls with boughs of holly or burning a Yule Log about it seems a little lese majeste, as if one were to put miseltoe above Christ Pantocrator.
The Anchoress is in the middle of slowly losing a brother to illness and coping with her own stress and grief, and her family's, as a consequence. She suffered what she called a "crash and burn" on the day after solstice--a massive abreaction of tears and guilt in the middle of overwhelming Christmas chores that, were it commonplace for her, I would diagnose as the symptoms of a Holiday Depressive. (For the record, I am inclined that way myself, so such abreaction is not unfamiliar to me.) This has been followed by a bout of bronchitis.
And it did seem to me a cautionary tale of how so many in America work themselves far too hard to "enjoy" Christmas, and have no psychological reserve left if by chance something arises which is not enjoyable.
In Ohio we were lucky, the usual and conventional yearning for a white Christmas was spectacularly fulfilled with a Level 3 snow emergency on Christmas Eve, and I strongly suspect the forced home-bound seclusion by candlelight which this induced prevented many a Holiday Depressive abreaction. There is an old saying--a green Christmas fills the churchyards--which, if no longer literally true, still has profound psychological meaning.
La Shawn's immediate pre-Christmas message and its Merry holiday spirit can merely be quoted without comment:
When liberals lecture the rest of us about helping "the weak and the downtrodden," they're referring to increased funding for social programs, not unborn life. Real charitable. Who could be more weak than a growing baby dependent on his mother for protection and sustenance?
Why does such a profane and perverse "right to choose" trump that? This is the result of backward and muddled thinking in our post-modern times, but so exquisitely human! Back in the day people were killing babies; today we're still killing babies. People will always kill babies. The reasons vary. Sometimes it's population control or child sacrifice to the gods, etc. Today women cry, "Our bodies, our decision!"
There is poison in all our veins, the poison of a politics which cannot compromise. There is no concorde that maketh merry among the poisoned. Too bad. It would be very nice to have it back.
In 2000, my primary teacher, the Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, abbot of the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra monastary in Woodstock, New York, inaugurated a regular ceremony for the new millenium called First Light, which makes the traditional Tibetan offering of many butter lamps, with the merit dedicated to the cause of world peace. He'll be doing it again on January 1, 2005. If you'd like, light a candle and join him. I will be.
Happy New Year.