Friday, December 25, 2009

Jesus in a Tutu

            Memories of childhood Christmases popped into my brain as we sat around the tree this morning opening gifts. Christmas with a one-year-old shakes the dust off a rusty holiday and awakens some of the magic in it. Up till last year I’d been feeling a bit cynical about the whole Christmas thing – how our culture has taken the event hostage with shallow, flashy “stuff.”
            We walk into shopping centers for obligatory gifts and hear a significant song about Christ’s birth, followed by some drivel about snowmen throwing a party or some such nonsense. I mean, seriously, we’re experiencing the juxtaposition of the time and commitment three wise men invested to travel months on a fools’ errand to find the new king and bow before the baby with abundant gifts, joined with some flashing-nosed flying figment who somehow miraculously appears at all the billions of homes at once with gifts aplenty (regardless of the fact that a third of the world is still starving). It’s like watching Jesus dancing in a tutu. Ridiculous.
            So there I was at the shopping centers this year, struggling to find significant ways to spend money, wondering when we’d be able to stop this crazy tradition. And I do admit that I had at least one tirade about the whole thing with Michelle (who puts up with a surprising amount of my bellyaching).
            But then Christmas day came around and there was my little Celia, eyes lit up like little miracles, watching the angel on the top of the tree in awe, delighted not at all about the bounty of gifts, but to simply be with all of us and that mound of wrapping paper. I reached down, picked her up and looked at my brother through her eyes. Her uncle. And I suddenly felt like a one-year-old again. I remembered the awe I felt at that age.
            Not that I really remembered anything particular, just the spirit of things. And it struck me perhaps for the first time ever that our culture’s approach to Christmas is hugely significant for kids. It’s completely designed for them. When adults take it on for ourselves, we just make a mess of it – make it about “stuff.” But kids, they bring out the true awe that Christmas really has for us. The amazing spirit that lurks behind it all, of generosity, food and family.
            I think it was my favorite Christmas in a long time. Thanks, Baby-Cakes.

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