[Author’s note: I have been publishing some version of this since the holiday season of 2009. The world was a dramatically different place back then. Accordingly, this essay has been nuanced over the years in order to stay aligned with current events. The message it intends to convey, however, is timeless.]
This year… 2023… The world is in an especially troubled place.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and associated worldwide hysteria, has finally receded, more or less, and faded into our collective fogged-up global rearview mirrors. Lockdowns, business closures, and large-scale job loss insanity are finally coming to heal, although the price for this progress includes dramatic increases, globally, in strong-armed government efforts to disrupt our rights to Freedom, Liberty, personal safety, and economic independence. Sadly, after all the money we spent as a nation and given the levels of misinformation/disinformation, and outright lies, the disease remains with us, and its long-term effects on our lives and future generations will likely never be fully understood.
While we were busying ourselves with the challenges of COVID-19, allocating more resources than we even had at our disposal, three entirely different pandemic storms were simultaneously forming all around the world; violence, addiction, and homelessness. One of these problems is excruciatingly difficult to solve, but trying to contend with all three at the same time, made more or less impossible with the added layer of planet-wide Mass migration on a scale never before seen, is bringing the global population to its knees.
Our species is wired to collaborate, cooperate, and commune with each other in pursuit of the shared interest of our mutual survival. Unfortunately, our world is currently drowning in crime and violence amongst and between each other at such stunningly high rates, with unspeakable levels of hatred, anger, and vitriol, that it is a wonder we have not already driven ourselves over the cliff of extinction and wiped our species from the face of the Earth. We can do better than this. The human race can do better than this, and we owe it to ourselves and our subsequent Generations to start turning things around before it’s too late.
As Thanksgiving approaches and brings with it the onset of the holiday season and family traditions, it’s a good time to pause and reflect and remind ourselves, for just a moment, what the point of all this “stuff” really is, or at least what is intended to be gained or realized or enjoyed as you go about your particular traditions for celebrating it.
No matter where you go or what you do, at this time of year, you cannot avoid the marketing and advertising “blitzkrieg” that has transformed the Christmas season into some horribly disfigured mutation of the original point of the holiday. Thanks in large part to the political correctness movement and this idea that public displays of religion and faith, most especially Christian religion and faith (this year, sadly having to add Jewish religion and faith to that list), are now considered offensive to the smaller numbers of non-believers demanding that these things should be constrained or removed from public purview altogether. Yet, as this unwinnable cultural Civil War rages on, there are vast numbers of innocent bystanders out there around the world silently suffering through a sense of sadness or anguish or heartbreak or loss that those cultural Civil warriors could scarcely comprehend, let alone personally endure or overcome.
Each of us – from every faith and lack thereof – would be well-served by the reminder that, for some, the Christmas holiday season is not necessarily a happy or joyous time of year. It should inspire you to pause long enough to see beyond the gadgets and baubles and trinkets and consider the lives and circumstances of our less fortunate brothers and sisters around the world. It should encourage you, as well, to be just a little more humble, a little more generous, and a whole lot more kind… not just to your friends, families, and loved ones, but to the nameless and unfamiliar faces of “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” that you encounter as you walk freely about the cabins of your everyday lives.
While many of us are busy with family and friends and parties and School vacations… or festivals and parades and shopping malls and fancy-wrapped packages… there are far too many among us who are barely holding on by a tattered and unraveling thread. For some, this is perhaps the worst time of the year. Overwhelming feelings of isolation, sadness, and devastating loss can be renewed or heightened.
As well, this time of year can serve to deepen those feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and despair. There are many without family, friends, or loved ones to share the season with. There are some that have been abandoned or forgotten, or pushed aside. Some have chosen to give up on the world altogether… giving up on themselves and everything they once were.
This year there are people huddled in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere or curled up in a dark alley far away from anyone they have ever known or loved or cared about. There are people, too, sitting in a dark room out there somewhere, staring at the pistol in their hands and thinking about their future… and wondering just how much more of it they can bear to envision.
There are brothers and sisters out there who, having lost their jobs or their homes (or both), find themselves angry and bitter and resentful of a God or a Government or a peer or a loved one who could have helped make a difference in their lives that chose not to.
It is during this season, under the banner of “faith, fellowship, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men, that I encourage you to keep whoever fits any of these descriptions in your own life, especially close in your thoughts and prayers as you move through your own Holiday season traditions. I also encourage you to look beyond your own lives… if only for a few moments… and consider reaching out and connecting to some of the random strangers you encounter over the days and weeks ahead. A smile, a warm wish, a handshake… even a kind and simple gesture… might just save someone’s life or completely turn it around and point toward a new and better path.
Christmas is meant to be a time of reverence and remembrance and showing goodwill toward men. It is meant to be a celebration of life, a renewal of faith and fellowship, and an expression of love and generosity toward others. It’s not about trees and sleighs and stringed popcorn. It’s not about Target and Macy’s and festivals of lights. And it most certainly is not about diamonds and baubles and ordering online.
As Christ’s birthday passes and the dawn of the new year celebration breaks, helping a loved one, or even a total stranger, or even an estranged or forgotten friend or family member to get through another day should be at the very top of the list of “resolutions” you will NOT break as you stride happily forward into the new year.