“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nippin’ at your nose.
Yuletide carols bein’ sung by a choir,
and folks dressed up like eskimos,…”
The Christmas song
That time of year when we get suckered into buyin’ crap that people don’t need for people who simply don’t care. That time of year when warm handshakes replace the cold twisting of the knife into the backs and necks of our co-workers. That time of year where waitresses devilishly greet your table wearin’ a push-up bra and a Santa hat.
That time of year when it’s all inclusive. It doesn’t matter one whit if you’re Christian, Jew or Misc.
It has been diluted down so it’s palatable for everyone. You could be a Satanist and still reap the benefits of Christmas. It’s turned into a generic holiday,…like Labor Day. I have yet to see a Satanist turn down a Christmas bonus or free turkey on principle. I have yet to see a Muslim reject a gift certificate to Sear’s because it doesn’t go along with his turbaned belief system. It’s simply a time of year that everyone can get behind because it’s that time of year where we have been suckered into caring for a fellow man “just a little bit more”.
That’s all fine and good. We always could use a little more caring for our fellow man. There’s not enough of it the other 11 months out of the year. I’m diggin’ that. But in this day and age of political correctness, we have watered it down to “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”
I guess my point of contention about this whole thing is that it has become something that it shouldn’t be. It has become a bit of a placating drug for the Fritz Lang Metropolites who simply go along with it because everyone else is goin’ along with it. It gets thinned out into pure nothingness, for the sake of political correctness, so as not to offend any of the rebellious individuals who are not matrixed enough to have a brief, cogent thought as to the reasons why their waitress is accenting her breasts while wearing a fuzzy, white and red hat.
Sounds like I’m a Theist, don’t it?…Atheist?…Agnostic?
None of the above. I will simply state for the record that I am a Christian in my belief.
I simply state this for the record, not as a matter to be debated or argued….because that is not the import of this post. The import of this post is about the Christmas season itself.
I find there are certain aspects of this season that I fail to comprehend. One of the most glaring is this Jekyll and Hyde nature that we humans tend to engage in immediately after the Thanksgiving Day bird carcass is on its merry way to the garbage dump. There is a convoluted metamorphosis that takes place in which we actually demonstrate the fact that we don’t hate each other as much as we would like people to believe…of which this fact is none more apparent than in the yearly appearance of the Salvation Army kettles and bells that pop up in doorways of fine local merchants. We throw in a buck to help those less fortunate,…like Tiny Tim and Mickey Rourke,…and it makes us look good to the sheer volume of rabid holiday shoppers who are in search of great deals on a “good” aftershave like Stetson.
This is the time of year that we drag an artificial tree out of our attic and assemble said tree in our living rooms…so as to impress our friends and relatives with our tree adorning acumen….and nobody sees anything wrong with this seemingly mentally unstable behavior.
(I know, I know. The religious implications are there. Martin Luther was the first one to do this. But!,…if it was first done by Martin Luther, why are so many Catholics into this ritual? And, more importantly, why did Martin Luther do this in the first place? What does it denote? Why do I have to put a tree in my living room one month outta the year?)
This tree,…this fake tree that is relegated to it’s very own space in our attics or under our basement stairs,…is pulled out of its cardboard home every year and, after it is opened, we are left with the same despairing feeling that we had when we put it in the box last year. It’s like a time machine. The ornaments are wrapped in newspaper pages, the origin of which was almost to the day of when the box was last repackaged.
We are reminded about the year past and generally it’s really not a good feeling. We know our healthcare is going to go up. Relationships falter or grow,…and strange hairs appear where there were none last year. The dog may have had to have been replaced and that transmission might’ve finally given out. This is usually not the time to count one’s blessings….nor is there time to do so because your hands and mind will soon be consumed with the arduous task of having to untangle the miles of Christmas tree lights that have somehow gathered themselves into a twisted mess in spite of the delicate and careful nature in which you stored them last year. It’s as if, during the course of the year past, these lights slowly wormed and squirmed their way into a tangle while sitting inanimate in a box designated for the storage of such spiteful electronics.
We pull out the ornaments that mean something to us. Usually the ones from childhood,…because that is truly the last time we were innocent and carefree,..and it’s these ornaments that we want visible because they still somehow mesmerize. Not the ones which were handed out as souvenirs at the last work Christmas party,…the one in which your boss made a drunken pass at your wife….handmade by a craftsman in the Philippines.
We, the collective we, engage in this asinine ritual that has little or no meaning to the true nature of Christmas. Yet we continue to do this, year after year, in spite of the lack of reason afforded to it.
I simply don’t understand, I guess.
It’s usually right after Thanksgiving that the radio stations declare that there is gonna be non-stop Christmas music until Christmas. I always wince when I hear that. It’s not because I’m a Scrooge, it’s more because the adult-contempo music scene is rife with people who want to put their own spin on a classic that should never be screwed with. Let’s leave “White Christmas” to Bing, “Blue Christmas” to Elvis, “The Christmas Song” to Johnny and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” to Bruce. Everyone else, I’m afraid, pales in comparison. There is no point in Kenny G tryin’ to pull off “Carol of the Bells” on his tiny little girlie-man sax. All that succeeds in doing is irritating Christmas shoppers who are already irritated as it is.
Shopping, lunches, lights, trees, eggnog, ornaments, gifts, family, friends, tinsel, holly, ivy, reindeer underwear, socks, sweaters, TV specials, receipts, busty waitresses….
And when you look to the world of spirituality for a brief respite, you find that there is none.
Church services also tend to go where the lack of reason is painfully apparent.
As the Christmas season approaches, churches tend to ruminate about how their services can become grander than the year before. The band has to be bigger, the lighting has to be better, and the choir has to be on full tilt. The thought of a fog machine plays out as a rational possibility as plans are made for the dramatization of the birth of Christ.
“We must have a state of the art manger! Spare no expense!…who’s playin’ Mary? Can she sing falsetto?,…what about the drummer boy? Can we get Stig out from behind the kit to really wail on that sparkly snare he has?…Call the Smiths. They just had a kid. See if we can get them to let us use it for our baby Jesus…”
I mean, it almost borders on the insane. The churches become as decked out as the shopping malls, complete with the lack of explanation about the freakin’ tree in the lobby, man. I mean, if every church has a tree, in some way, shape or form, isn’t a little explanation about the origins of the tree,…to dolts like me,…in order?
Aside from Martin Luther deciding that he was gonna put a tree up in his house, where are the origins of such an act?
I think,…I’m not sure,…but, plain and simple, Christmas is about the birth of Christ, right?
(Hence the name Christ in the word Christmas,)
That’s it. That’s all. And for me, that’s enough. No sparks, no fanfare needed. No lights, no eggnog, no Mel Torme’, no roasted chestnuts….(but I will take some of that Peppermint Bark ice cream you got over there…)
Joseph and Mary just got married,…right? I don’t think it was in the plans Joseph had for himself…to marry a woman who proclaimed she was a virgin while simultaneously sportin’ a baby bump. I know Joseph had to be tryin’ to come up with a reason to divorce Mary. I know I would be….but the reason was as plain as the bulge on her belly.
He was not without just cause, mind you,…but then the angel came to him while he was asleep….and loused everything up.
“Joseph!,…wake up!,…while still maintaining your sleep! I am the angel of the Lord and you shall listen to what I have to say!…while you steadfastly maintain your slumber….like you did in math class when you were a kid. Listen to me, Joseph. Mary is a good woman. The bestest of the best. She’ll make a fine ol’ wife for you, my good man. She didn’t go steppin’ out on you, Joseph…. I know it looks that way. Believe you me, I REALLY know it looks that way, man,…but the child she is bearing is the Son of God. Don’t worry about a thing. Name him Jesus…. Ciao.”
Joseph wakes up and begins to rub the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. He thinks to himself,
“Ya know,…I really don’t need this crap right now.”
Caesar Augustus then decreed that he had to count everyone on earth (for whatever reason),…so he made them go and be counted.
Joseph then sighed and thought to himself,
“This is total bull****, man”
Joseph had to take Mary and go get counted. She was due. They loaded up and headed towards Bethlehem,…because that was home base due to the fact that Joseph was of the lineage of David.
Think about that journey. They were probably fightin’ all the way there. Mary getting’ that plum spot on top of the ass while Joseph was havin’ to pull it behind him. Getting’ lost because of construction,…and losin’ valuable time on top of it…all because some douche said they had to be counted.
Then Mary says,
“Joe, baby?….ummm, Joe, baby?…. I think it might be time”.
Joseph pauses. He turns and looks at his wife in disbelief.
“Unbelievable”, he thinks to himself, “totally un-freakin’-believable,…she’s gonna drop that kid now?,…freakin’ unbelievable, man…for Caesar’ssake, Mary, gimme a freakin’ break, babe”.
Joseph then begins to look for a place to stay. No vacancy signs are everywhere. No McDonald’s, Waffle Houses or I-HOP’s for as far as the eye can see….and all the gas stations were closed due to the impending holiday,… the weather is crappy. Mary is miserable and Joseph is thinkin’ that this is a fine how-do-you-do from the Creator of the universe….
Joseph looks to Heaven and mutters to God, “You promised you’d be here, man”.
But then he is taken with his pretty wife’s face. She is in pain…and he loses sight of the fact that this was a Divine deal to begin with. It was just him and her now. That’s all there was. He feels like that’s all there ever was. Whatever was told to him from the angel became a thing of the past. A fancy of the imagination,…because there was obviously no one present now ‘cept him and her,…and the kid.
She hurts and he begins to hurt for her. He simply wants to make her pain go away. He stops and lets her rest from the movement of the donkey. As she rests, he begins to rifle through his pockets until he produces a small bag of miniature pretzels that he had stashed in there before they left the house. He offers her some. She shakes her head no and says,
“No,…thanks,..really not hungry right now, Joe. Thanks, though…you eat ‘em”.
He stands for a moment, silently munching pretzels from a tiny bag.
He covers her with some of his clothes and kisses her on the forehead, in a vain attempt to stop her tears,… and then they continue on. They were on a road, after all, and there was no place for them to stop. Thieves tended to line the roadside and lay in wait for such as these. Easy marks who have no real defense and their youthfulness more than betrayed the fact that they were probably not worldly wise.
It is a road traversed in silence. Just the sound of the donkey’s footsteps in the dirt and Joseph and Mary’s labored breath. No talking. No laughing. They were alone in the very literal sense of the word. Joseph’s hands become calloused and sore from the donkey pulling one way and another. Mary tries,… prays…for stillness.
The labor intensifies.
They continue to walk in the cold stillness of the night. Nothing more is said. Mary begins to grow light-headed as they step into the outskirts of town.
There was an inn on the side of the road. The blue neon sign said “Vacancy”,…for a brief moment,…until the proprietor flipped on the contrasting red “NO” sign….as the six Parker kids clamored out of the wood-panelled station wagon that was parked in the front of the lodge….they then, not using their “indoor voices”, began running and yelling and screaming down the front of building, with little or no regard to the tenants who might have been sleeping there.
Joseph scratched his head as he drank the rest of the pretzel powder out of the tiny bag.
“Hey, Mary?…I’m gonna see if they could hook us up. I mean, what the heck do we got to lose? Don’t say anything. Let me do the talkin’”
Mary, her head resting on the mane of the donkey while looking really pale and ill, says,
“I won’t. Just make sure you show them your triple A card because we don’t want to get finagled into some “user” fees…..and make sure you tell them that we only need it for the night. I don’t want them to run the credit card for another day….and only take one of the card keys and make sure that they don’t make another one because your credit card information is on that card….and make sure that the room isn’t by those kids,…”
Her voice trailed off as Joseph began walking towards the front door. He opened the door and a jingle bell sounded to announce his arrival.
A man in a turban stepped out of the back room. CNN was blaring from the sitting lounge to the right of the desk. A table stocked with bagels and cookies stood next to a large brochure display stand that contained fancy brochures of all the neat sites to see in “Amazing Bethlehem!”
Joseph began to speak.
“I know I just saw your light go on and all,…but my wife is about to have a baby and we were wondering if you could help us out. We hoofed it all the way from Nazareth.”
Joseph then pulled a twenty out and subtly flashed it for the proprietor to see,…without bein’ overly anxious,…letting the sight of cash do the talkin’.
The turbaned man just shrugged his shoulders and declared,
“I wish I could. We’re packed to the gills. There’s not a room to be had within twenty miles. If you woulda called and placed a reservation, I coulda held the room until midnight,…but you gotta bear in mind that it’s Christmas Eve. What can I do here?”
Joseph began to plead with the man.
“C’mon, man,…ain’t you gotta garage or somethin’? We’re dyin’ here. What about that feeding stable back there? Can we stay there?”
The man responded, “Well,…seein’ how it’s Christmas Eve and all,…yeah, you can stay back there. I won’t even charge ya”
Joseph thanked the man profusely and retreated to tell Mary the good news. Mary, excited at the prospect of stretchin’ her feet out, breathed a sigh of relief and asked Joseph if he had any more of those pretzels. Joseph pretended not to hear her.
As they rounded the corner to the stables, Joseph paused and looked out over the horizon. Bethlehem was pretty this night,…with all the houses that were intermittently lit up with brightly colored lights that flashed and twinkled in the dark.
Quietly, he turned and led Mary and the donkey to a dark, abandoned stable….the three of them alone once again.
What God meant when He said,
“Don’t you kids make me come down there!…”