Now that Christmas has begun (12 days, people!), I thought it might be interesting to talk about “the meaning of Christmas.” I was listening to NPR the other day, and a caller asked what seems like a really reasonable question: why Christmas, and not Easter? I mean, Easter is the BIG day, right? It’s the holiest of holidays on the Christian calendar, symbolizes the return of God to Earth, etc.– so why don’t we have months of Easter commercials and Easter lights and Easter carols and specials and movies about people finding love on Easter underneath the Easter tree?
The hosts answered with some rather underwhelming thoughts about how we all have birthdays and everybody thinks babies are cute and what a good story, but underlined that the history of the celebration as we know it is fairly complex. I think the reason is a little simpler, and a little more primal. I think that Christmas is about how awesome it is to get presents.
Now wait, before you get all “yikes! Materialism, commercialism, Linus’s speech, you fiend!” let me explain what I mean. Think about your best Christmas memories, and how amazing Christmas can be, and you’ll likely include at least a couple of things you remember from childhood. I remember, for instance, the old steamer trunk we used to store our decorations, and how exciting it would be to open it on the day the tree arrived, and the books it contained that only came out once a year. I remember caroling and driving around looking at lights. But, in a large way, I really remember the anticipation of waking up on Christmas morning and running out to the living room to see what was left under the tree.
That sense of anticipation, the sense of hope, was always sweeter than the actual revelation of the contents of the wrapped boxes and packages strewn across the living room floor. And this is what I mean by Christmas is about how awesome it is to get presents. It’s about the entire season, the journey that begins on Thanksgiving and ends when the last present is opened. It’s about looking forward to a delightful dinner and a day off of work. It’s about having to wait without knowing *exactly* what you’ll get. Will it be disappointing? Will it be awesome? EEEE, I can’t sleep!!!
Because, you see, this is the message of the original Christmas story: a couple in the ancient Near East wander around because they’re ordered to by the government, and even though she’s pregnant, they keep getting turned away from inn to inn (what a nifty metaphor for life in the World of Forms!). Eventually, they find a place to stay, and it’s a place that’s pretty dirty, a stinky old stable full of animals (no matter what the current jerk of a pope says, there most certainly were donkeys and cows and camels and such), and then Mary gives birth to a tiny baby who will eventually… wait for it… WAIT FOR IT… SAVE THE WHOLE WORLD! Yow!
See, it’s all about anticipation! It’s all about hope! It’s intended to tell us that no matter how shitty things get down here in the World of Forms, no matter how long we have to wait, the True God has a plan. It may take some time, and it may not turn out exactly the way we expected it to, but for those of us in the know (wink wink I’m looking at you!), the sweetness of anticipation and the hope of the redemption of the World of Forms makes putting up with all of these Archons totally worthwhile.
Obvs people think that the three kings (who really should be called ‘the group of astrologers’) brought the first Christmas gifts– all that gold and incense (say, what happened to all of that stuff, anyhow? Wouldn’t that have been useful to a carpenter’s family in ancient Palestine? Did Joseph maybe keep it for himself, use it to supplement the family’s income for a while? Er, sorry, losing track here…)– all that gold and incense weren’t the first gift. The first Christmas present was the promise represented by that little baby resting in the animal’s food, the promise that even though his power is limited here in this realm of imperfection, he’s got a plan, and it just might work, so we have something to hope for.
So don’t get all uppity with kids who are really excited about getting stuff for Christmas. It’s okay to hope that something terrific is under the tree, wrapped in paper– in fact, that’s what it’s all about.
Now get out there and enjoy the rest of your Christmas!