Anyone who knows me can attest that I love the Christmas season. It’s hands down my favorite time of the year. I look forward all year long to the moment I can turn on the Christmas lights and put up the tree. If I’m in a store or a museum in April and spot something I think will bring joy to a family member or close friend, I buy it on the spot and put it the Christmas box.
I love the traditions, the cookie and candy making, the smell of hot cider and cinnamon sticks. I even love the chaos, the paper and the bows, and putting the cheap, plastic ornaments on the bottom branches so I don’t have to scold my Gidget cat too much if she decides to bat them off.
But most of all, I love the feeling that everything is going to be all right that comes with the promise of Christmas.
As a little kid, I loved memorizing poetry (confession, I still do) and I came across the Longfellow poem that eventually became the popular carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I also loved studying the Civil War, and the ending of that poem so captured the deep division and pain of the time and the comforting promise of the season:
“And in despair, I bowed by head,
There is no peace on earth I said.
For hate is strong and mocks the song,
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
When I feel discouraged about the deep divisions I see today tearing apart families, neighbors and friendships, I like to recall those words and remind myself that in the miracle of the Christmas season, the promise of peace and good will surely prevail.
I remember plenty of other contentious times. In my lifetime, America has come through the Korean and Vietnam wars, the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, the assassination a president, the resignation of another, the impeachment of yet another, the shock of Kent State.
What I don’t remember is a time before now when there were facts and “alternative facts,” when it was a struggle to keep reality apart from fantasy, when so many people believed and repeated stories that had been clearly and totally debunked multiple times. It is easy to despair.
And in that regard, I think the season of promise and hope is arriving at a very good time. The world can’t be all bad when the house smells like evergreens, freshly baked cookies, apple cider and cinnamon and is full of kids with smears of colorful icing on their fingers and faces, when the crinkle of wrapping paper means the ever-curious eight-year-old is trying to figure out what’s beneath the tree.
There’s comfort in traditions and comfort in normal life. But there is inner peace in the promise of the season. May that prevail in your heart and household this blessed season.