Winter break has been filled with travel, a week with my wife in Seattle, then an overnight run to Vegas, finally ending with a fly fishing expedition in the White Mountains. Needless to say, I've seen a variety of landscapes in a short amount of time ranging from the deserts to the bustling city emerging out of a peninsula, to the mountains with its trout filled streams and of course, the glittery City of sin. As a result, my schedule has been anything but regular. Upon my return home, it took me some time to remember what winter was like or should be like in Arizona and now as I begin to settle in, to recover that familiarity, I find that 2012 is just beyond reach.
Christmas was for the most part pleasant but I think that means there was a great deal missing. It gets increasingly more difficult to celebrate Christmas when it is all about hanging out with family, good times, presents and food. To make matters worse, I find myself going along with the flow, wanting Christmas to be little more than a culmination of these banalities. As the Christmas tunes sing their last notes, and we begrudginly take down our decorations, stuffing them in boxes in which they no longer fit, I find a deep hollowness as cold as winter that is easy to suppress but difficult to ignore entirely. How strange a feeling, to be filled with food and drink but profoundly empty.
I did realize something about Christmas this season that I hadn't in previous ones. I have for a number of years struggled with trying to recover the "magic" of the holiday. Most of you will probably relate to that overwhelming feeling of warmth and mystery that Christmas provided for you as a child. And if you're like me, then you lament the fact that at some point between the threshold separating childhood and early adulthood, this experience of Christmas disappeared, never to return again. Well, I have missed that feeling for years and have tried in vain to recover it. I have heard many a parent talking about finding something similar, as they experience the holidays vicariously through their children but it isn't quite the same, so they tell me. So in past years I have tried to find the right tree, the right decorations, or listen to more Christmas music and the like, but I always end up disappointed. After years of this nonsense, it finally struck me this year that perhaps what I have been trying so hard to again find isn't worth recovering in the first place. I realize that I might sound like a heartless scrooge at the moment, but hear me out.
There is a verse in scripture that has always resonated with me. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians writes, "When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, but when I became a man I put off childish ways..." (1 Cor 13:11). When I was a child, I loved Christmas because it meant that I would get gifts and lots of food and desserts and get to see sparkly lights everywhere. It meant that school was out for a couple of weeks and I could play without having to worry about homework or exams. And I felt a sense of security being with my family in our home as if nothing could happen to us. But I am starting to think that all of this is merely jejune thinking. Life is not a matter of bodily pleasures, nor is it about food and drink or presents, or false senses of security. Thinking as a child of course may be acceptable for children, but even here I think if we are good parents, we strive progressively to nurture and reform their cognitive habits. But it is utterly unbecoming to think like a child when you are an adult because it means you haven't quite grown up or matured. Of course, you can refuse to grow up like Peter Pan and I think this is precisely what Michael Jackson attempted to do, but there was always something tragically sad about the unhealthy life of the king of pop.
I think that for good reason we do not often depend on the dispositions of children to guide the important decisions in our lives. Sagacious parents who want to raise healthy kids will not leave it to their eight year olds to determine how to manage the household budget, or come up with the grocery list, or choose the best educational curriculum or institution. Similarly, I wouldn't rely on the judgments of a child to tell me about the meaning of a fine piece of literature, art or music. At times children may exhibit precociousness and we might heed such advice but this is only because it resembles the thoughts of a mature adult. And so it seems to me that perhaps I shouldn't let the child in me define the meaning of such a cosmically significant occasion such as Christmas and that if I do, I do so to my own peril.
Here's to striving towards a more meaningful holiday next year and leaving my childhood where it belongs, in the past.