Alternative Christmas

Herewith, the Christmas Baby Solstice Sermon for 2011 (note:  Marin is the county I live in near San Francisco):

A Christmas Baby Unwraps the Season

Chris Highland

The dizzying sleighrides are upon us again.  We call them, with a sigh, “holidays.”  Ho, ho, ho. . .hum.  Or humbug.  I’m no grinch, and I have no interest in grabbing a candycane (or a peppermint IPad) from the sticky clutches of a starry-eyed, sweetened-up little child, and there’s no plot to nab a nativity from a kneeling grandma.  But there has to be a saner way to “do the holidays.”

Think about it.  ‘Tis the season for the “CC’s”:  cutting conifers, carving creatures, Christmas carols, Chanukah Candles, the Christ Child and credit cards.  Copy that?  In this glorious land of trees (in excelsis!) the truncating of beautiful, green, living towers seems bizarre. . .cutting back, as we know, isn’t a Marin option.  So, we copy and paste the same old same old year after (blessed?) year.  Why?  We don’t know anything else, and we’re scared to try, I guess.

Killing things to celebrate Life seems a bit weird, especially in the peace-sign capital of the planet.  I gave up the tree and animal slaughter some years ago (I still slip, then swallow my guilt), but I was born, raised, boiled and braised with all the seasonings of the season.  And it still eats me up.  When my daughter was knee high to an elf we dropped a blazing menorah in the middle of a wreath, ate a grateful meal, opened a few gifts and called it our Hanukkah-Christmas (her little hug was my Happy Birthday).  Getting out to Point Reyes or Muir Woods was the best dessert.  Since then I’ve spent a forest of years letting go of “holy days” in favor of a simple, basic contentment with the extraordinarily sacred in every ordinary day.  Each day can be a gift, and being present for others is still the best I can give, to them and to myself.  It’s a little like coming home to yourself, being your own jolly claus–without the trappings and wrappings, the increase in waste and waist.

If you have been homeless (as I have) “home” means something more than the stuff and stuffing we shove into basements, backyards, birds and bellies.  The winter shelter is open again, thankfully, but there are many more neighbors who have to scrounge and scream just to be in, inside, while most of us are out of it, out of touch, unless it’s on a screen, a cell or on sale.

We are so pre-occupied with our occupations we forget to occupy our mental rental space with thoughts for those who simply wish for occupancy.  Maybe this just gets too close to home to think about:  there are so many Marys and Josephs and Bethlehem bundles of troubles out there today and tonight, season after season, forever and ever, amen?  And all we have to offer is another dead tree, dissected turkey or dim iToy.  Bah!

Nah!  It’s not really so blustery bad, not such a snowdrift of sadness.  We can choose to lighten up and tear open something new!  Standing in the bright lights of the dark side of the year why not celebrate the simple delights near at hand: drop the screens for a bit; take a few quiet walks; be the present with friends and family or total strangers; make some art, some love; read a book and read another to a child.  Do something, be something, a little different.

Give yourself the gift of NOT doing the holidays this year.  Or at least not what you’ve ever done before.  Oh, and don’t forget to take long, deep breaths. . .and Be Merry!

(Brainsticker for the Season:  “These Colors Don’t Run. . .Into Wars!”)

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