Monday, December 16, 2013

That Mysterious Holiday Spirit...When Will It Finally Arrive?

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.” – Mary Ellen Chase

I’m looking for my holiday spirit—have you seen it?

I know that question might seem kind of odd coming from someone whose job it is to  “do” the holidays and holy days for a living. Pretty much from the first Sunday in December, right up until 11:30 pm on Christmas Eve, I’m in full tilt holiday mode.  Yet each year I can never quite tell on what day this month my holiday mojo, my holiday “hello!”, my holiday switch will flick to “on” and I’ll get into that December groove.  I’ll remember again the “spirit” of the season.

How about you? Has your holiday spirit arrived yet?

I tried shopping, what our culture says is the best way to get into the “reason for the season”.  Since before Thanksgiving we’ve all been buried under an avalanche of holiday commercials on the TV and radio and the Internet, telling us that the way to be really festive is to buy things for the folks on our gift lists.  Statistics suggest the average American will spend $800 in that effort. And yes there can be kind of a rush to barreling into the mall and tracking down a parking spot and weaving through the displays of merchandise to find the “perfect” gift.  There is a certain challenging energy to surfing on Amazon and clicking, then waiting for those ubiquitous cardboard boxes to show up on the front porch.  

But shopping, well, finally—it just doesn’t do it for me. Fun? Sometimes, sure. But spirit? Not so much.

I tried being busy—who isn’t this time of year?  It is so easy to fill up our calendars to overflowing in December, with parties and cookie swaps and Yankee swaps and family gatherings and abundant feasts, out every night, on the weekends too.  And so often the tempo of these efforts is kind of hyper, all of us so aware of the calendar and the clock which ticks on down to the “big day”. If we are not careful we might not squeeze every last activity in, right? I’m not sure why we seem to ramp it up so much in the 12th month. Maybe we are trying to push back the diminishing light. To get every last drop of the holidays before January descends and things get quiet again. 

But busyness? That’s not working for me either.  Gives me something to do, that’s for sure.  But spirit? Not really, not yet.

And then I remembered years past and the amazing, unpredictable moments when the holiday spirit did finally arrive. The time parishioners showed up at my apartment with a Christmas tree for me, knowing that my first holiday far away from my family was a hard one. The December a youth group I led decided to create a special care package for a tug boat captain in the church, who would be missing his loved ones on Christmas Eve.  The 24th when a generous parishioner had me give an anonymous gift of money to someone who was unemployed and had no way to buy his kids gifts. The night one Christmas Eve at church I had to stop singing a carol and instead help two recovering alcoholics who were desperate to find an AA meeting. 

Then Christmas did come, the holiday spirit arrived. But not in things or in stuff. Not in gifts or ribbons or bows or sales receipts. Not in frantic activities, or days and nights filled to the brim with running from one place to the next.  Christmas came, and Christmas will come again but when? 

Maybe when we give.  Give our hearts in unexpected and generous ways to others in our lives. Forgive an old grudge.  Track down someone we’ve lost touch with.  Give. Take some of our holiday cash and gift it to the poor, the hungry, the hurting, the ones who wonder if and when they’ll ever feel a holiday spirit. Give our time to folks who are left behind in the holiday madness: a nursing home patient or a child in a shelter or a widow or widower.  Give our hearts to the Creator, the one who gives to us the greatest gift of all, today. Life. 24 hours. Every single morning.

Giving. Maybe, just maybe that is what the holiday spirit is all about.  I’m on the look out for it.  Just a few days left to Christmas but I trust in those hours I’ll have a chance to give and give again and when I do, it will be Christmas. It will come.

Here’s hoping and praying you will find your holiday spirit too.


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