Sunday, December 25, 2011

What is Christmas?

I've been mulling over the question in my head for a few days. It's not really a date on the calendar or a set of decorations we drag out from underneath our basement stairs and out of our dusty, damp closets each year. It's not the feeling of togetherness as families reunite or the isolation that some feel when circumstances and choices separate them from potential connections. Separations that can either be physical or psychic. Sometimes the loneliest feelings come from being in the midst of orchestrated social activity.

There are the different symbolisms for the same celebration. The birth of goodness and light that will cause the darkness of physical existence to fade, the gradual lighting of the Menorah, a new moon that ushers in blessings and the idea of being connected to something powerful and unseen, an omniscient being that travels the universe in one night and deposits trinkets of wishes, hopes, and dreams. But it all comes down to one thing, I think. The belief that anything is possible.

So much of what we experience as humans occurs in "the dark." It doesn't make sense. It seems outrageous, ludicrous, damaging, painful, destructive, defeating, despairing. I could go on, but I think we all know what a struggle walking in darkness is.

Our entire universe (as we know it) exists within a vast, dark hole of nothing. Yet within that emptiness is something. A lot of some things. Brilliant, bright, self-sustaining, and intelligent somethings. From darkness life creates itself because it believes in the possibility of something good.

During the rest of the 364 days on the calendar we sometimes take for granted that the sun's rays warm up our skin and that miracles can manifest at any time, and in ways that take some effort to notice. It can be an alabaster statue of a deity, overlooking a once prominent neighborhood slowly being overtaken by crime. Or a stoplight on a freeway on-ramp that makes us stop to take notice of the license plate on the car in front of us. Or a Facebook message from an old friend, an invitation from a new one, the mystery of synchronicity that reunites past lives, a message from a recently departed loved one that shows up as an "accidental gift."

Christmas is a reminder of what is possible when we believe in what we can't see. Trust. Hope. Faith. Light. Magic. Kinship. Life. It is the only reason why we are here; the only purpose behind the facades of talent, profession, "project," "ambition," current state of existence. Light illuminates darkness. Possibility makes something of nothingness. Belief transforms sorrow. Giving ensures receiving, until nothing can be seen but a single star.

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