Before Halloween I listed a holiday pin in my online vintage jewelry shop. It’s a whimsical moose on rollerblades, clearly hurrying while balancing a stack of red and green wrapped presents. Maybe he’s trying to beat-the-rush, move at the speed-of-sales, or make it to Christmas dinner on time. When I found and posted it, it made me smile. I took it as a comic nudge against the commercialization of the season and our robotic appetite for stuff-buying.
But unless we’re under eight, we know Christmas isn’t about the presents. It isn’t about a few magical weeks of a season, or one specific calendar date, either. While Christmas has different meanings for different people, both religious and secular, it brings for many enhanced connection and outreach to family, friends, and community.
The Christmas message is a message of love; a way of being. I aspire to the Charles Dickens sentiment to “honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” The way I see it, we do that through our actions, which is why I’m worried about losing Christmas. We seem to be short on love right now. Shopping-frenzies, Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains aren’t stealing the real meaning of Christmas. No, we’re losing that all by ourselves.
We’re losing the Christmas message of love when neighbors stop speaking to neighbors based on political differences; when houses of worship become murderous targets of hate; when fear replaces compassion for those seeking a better life; and when pipe-bombs threaten to permanently silence those who disagree. We’re losing it when toxic language and incivility replace dialogue and understanding; when school yard taunts fill the halls of Congress and are echoed on playgrounds; when lies replace truth; when our planet’s health is compromised for business gains; and when we don’t see each other and our differences as a strength.
Still most of us aren’t like that. We don’t do those things. And yet, if we allow our hearts to harden even a little, become accustomed to the rancor, or allow the fear, hate, and indifference to thrive, we lose some of the Christmas message. When people of goodwill allow compassion, love, understanding, and tolerance to be supplanted in their neighborhoods, communities, workplaces, and country with inhumanity toward those who look, pray, or love differently than they do, we’re not keeping Christmas alive in our hearts.
In the scheme of things, I believe most people are people of goodwill. And those who embrace a message of love — whether in celebration of Christmas or any heritage or tradition — understand that in everyday ways we can bring love’s light into our own small spheres of influence. It’s how it’s always been in times of darkness. In quiet, underground ways or in vocal and vibrant ones, these are the people who preserve the love.
There is another pin in my shop — not whimsical or fun like the rollerblading moose — but it brings a message for these times. It’s crafted in three metals depicting three houses, each a different shape, color, and size. Underneath that community of differences are the words, “We need us all.”
No matter our politics, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or circumstances, we do, indeed, need us all; we need those with love in their hearts to give that love to each other and to the world so we, and our children’s children’s children, and everyone else’s children, can thrive in peace and love. That is my humble Christmas prayer.