Hopes and Fears

Wow! I was scolded for being happy at Christmas. It turns out Christmas is a hard time for some people and my happiness made them even more miserable.

It occurred to me that maybe this person nailed the reason for season like Nadia Comăneci nailed her landings in the Olympics (albeit, for all the wrong reasons).

Thomas Hopko once said that Nativity is the fulfillment of the longings of all people for salvation which are found in all religious and philosophies in human history. The latter part of the first stanza of O Little Town of Bethlehem gets to the same point, but more poetically. “Yet in thy dark streets shineth / The everlasting Light; / The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee tonight.”

“The Holidays” (if you believe the movies) are a season of gift giving, wassail and toddies, candy canes and cookies, relatives and family dinners which for many people degenerate dangerously on or around Christmas day. All these really wonderful things come crashing in and by Christmas afternoon we’re either lonely, angry, drunk, or eating the whole pie and container of ice cream … because we just can’t stand it any more.

As bland and predictable as that script is, it does sum up the “longing” and the “hopes and fears” of a whole year that seem to get concentrated into this short few weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years.

Christmas is God saying, “Yep, that whole ‘lonely, drunk, fighting, eating too much thing,’ that is precisely what this whole season is about. That’s why I sent my Son to be born as a human being. This seemingly horrible thing you call “The Holidays” is actually the silent and mysterious beginning of something big.”

Eventually we’ll be singing with gusto at midnight, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the grave.” But not today. Today we simply “long” for what’s to come, with all our “hopes and fears” … and we might even get scolded along the way because, let’s face it, our hopes are sometimes dim and our fears are very big.

I’m not advocating drunkenness or binge eating followed by self-loathing or family fights or a blue Christmas in general. I’m just saying that if that describes your experience, this is the Christian feast for you. Longing … hopes … fears … and angels singing “Glory to God” because they know how this whole mess ends. Thanks be to God.

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