O, Blessed Day of Restoration! Otherwise known as “getting back to normal.” Regardless of your theological perspective on Christmas, or lack thereof, for many of us Christmas is a time of shaking up business as usual and refocusing on both higher and lower things. Our regular schedule gave way for shopping, wrapping, decorating, creating, worshipping and giving, but most of the regular stuff still needed to get done. People who got time off from work can be forgiven for feeling robbed of the rest and relaxation they associate with vacation time, and those “at-home” folks (who either never get a day off, or for whom every day is a vacation day, depending on whom you ask,) just added the extra tasks on top. The music, the secrets, the spirit and the fun memories heightened the excitement and kept it fun, while the culture of fabulosity pressured us to add sizzle and stretch to perfection. Christmas is often like a vacation: expensive, time and labor intensive, delightful, satisfying and anti-climactic all at the same time.
That is, assuming your Christmas didn’t include a metaphorical hurricane. So many did. Some of us are still processing a holiday season viewed through the lens of grief: a lost home, job or loved one, some with absence so fresh we can still taste the tears. Others of us are struggling to get a handle on problems: mental or physical health issues for ourselves or ones that we love, or economic storms still looming off shore, or other disappointments in life that reframe our sense of who we are and what we can expect in life. These events do not recognize a liturgical or cultural calendar. Christmas can be a source of solace and/or bitterness in these times.
And then it’s over. Sure, it is time to write thank-you notes and clean up the mess. Eventually it will be time to put away the decorations. But business as usual resurfaces at the top of the to-do list and the hum-drum activities that may ordinarily chafe slip back on like well-worn work-casual shoes. More function, less glitter. I try to nurture the spirit of Love, Peace, Hope, Joy and Giving that is Christmas to me all year around. Weathering both daily squalls and storms of a lifetime would be unimaginably harder without my faith that God is with me and will see me through all things; and loving others as Jesus taught can get lost in the day-to-day without practice and a supportive community. I can maintain faith and love without observing Christmas, and I know that the trappings sometimes get in the way. I understand why some would do away with it altogether. But for me the celebration of the season reinvigorates my mindfulness of how I practice what I believe, now and in the seasons to come. The tree gets put away but the spark remains.