I went to the mall yesterday to buy some orange juice and non-alcoholic wine. I decided to kill two birds with one stone because in order to buy ordinary wine, I would have had to go to a specialized store called LCBO. Another store, another mass of people to contend with.
The store within the mall where I went for convenience, the Bloor Street Market, which sells high quality, high-end, more luxurious products, was jam packed with holiday shoppers who were clearly stressed and jostling—even forcefully pushing—others to get to the items they wanted. Never mind what happened at the checkout counter.
I live in Canada, notorious for being a friendly and polite country, and something like this has never happened to me before, here. The experience made me wonder why a holiday—Christmas—that’s really supposed to be about hope, joy, and love incarnate can become such a stressful and materially-oriented time for people. This is not to say that buying gifts for others or ourselves is wrong. I refer to misplaced emotions attached to an otherwise festive occasion. I refer to jostling for stuff that never runs out and is perennially replenished. I refer to the fact that the Dutch Brie, Viennese chocolate, Italian prosciutto, New York prime rib, and pre-cooked turkey will not run out and that there will be plenty, for all. So, can we please just relax?
As a chaplain, I am deeply aware that for some, Christmas represents a painful time fraught with emotions because we may think about loved ones who’ve died; happier, more joyous Christmases past; memorable past events; and places we’ve been. Hence the reason for Blue Christmas gatherings. I understand this; but if you think about it, Christmas should be red not blue. Red is the color of passion. Red is the color of the blood that courses through our veins. Red is the animator of life and Valentine love. Red is the vibrant color that shouts ‘Merry Christmas!’ in Times Square.
I’m no beatnik, but there is surely something to be said about becoming kinder, gentler and more loving—especially at Christmastime.
A friend referred to this as an emptying of ourselves, a relinquishing of ego, a kenotic exercise during which we appreciate the value of each and every person we encounter, even people who’ve hurt us. Can we, please, extend this to people at the mall, too? The people at the mall want the very same things we do. Alright, maybe not orange juice and fake wine. I believe that what all of us really want is to be appreciated, peaceful and loved. It’s not the material goods that we buy that can fill this void. It is only a deep appreciation of the reason for the season and our Creator who provides for our needs.
I was commiserating with a friend the other day. She shared the misery that her marriage had been and the fright she’d experienced when the moving truck—which was supposed to have been inconspicuously parked several blocks away—suddenly appeared in the driveway, early, while her then husband was still at home having breakfast before leaving for work! She quickly ran out in her pink bathrobe and slippers and explained. The movers came back later, and she was able to—safely and without fear of repercussions—take exactly half of the things that were in the home and which belonged to her and move out into an apartment of her own.
We both laughed uproariously because, though terrifying at the time, in retrospect, it was nerve-rackingly funny. Our hysterical laughter was the release of retained, shared fear that resulted in joyous freedom from oppression. Joy.
There’s an Ethiopian saying: ‘Hope, hope, hope ‘til you die.’ It’s a good saying which essentially means, ‘Never give up’ or ‘Never give up hope.’ This is the essence of what I’m trying to say. The love of the season brings joy and lasting hope. So, let’s be kinder, gentler and more loving with one another.