By Dave Dentel
When you’ve seen as many Christmases as I have, you come to realize
the holidays often are anything but merry and bright, let alone
carefree, rollicking, sprinkled-with-fairy-dust festivities. In fact,
some years the Yuletide downright stinks.
And what’s the primary cause of all this unseasonable misfortune? I’ll give it to you in a single word: people.
That’s right. To paraphrase a good friend of mine, Christmas really
would be a celebration of peace and joy if only you didn’t have to spend
it with other human beings.
If this sounds more than a little Scrooge-ish, it can't be helped.
We’ve all been there on those occasions when the family get-together is
ruined by the uncle who shows up plastered on Wild Turkey or by the aunt
who hides the English Christmas crackers because it’s beneath her
dignity to wear paper crowns and swap groan-inducing jokes.
So don’t cringe if I confess that sometimes at the approach of late
December I find myself sympathizing with old Ebenezer before the
spectral social workers strong-armed him into reforming.
Wasn’t the old misanthrope onto something? From the bankrupt euro
zone to hometown panhandlers, people tend to create their own misery
through poor choices. Why should I be expected to cheerfully bail them
out just because it’s Christmas?
And for confirmation of this view I can turn to the most
authoritative of sources—holy Scriptures. From Genesis to Revelation,
you find God the Father almighty expressing disgust at creatures made in
his own image. In Noah’s day the perversity of people prompted God to
flood the earth. In St. John’s Apocalypse, God declares the apathy of a
certain congregation makes him want to spew.
I read and re-read those passages, start to gloat, and then it hits me.
I’m a people.
I pout, fume and have been known to inflict a fair amount of
misery—even on Christmas. As Dickens so aptly put it when describing
Scrooge, I, too am a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping,
clutching, covetous old sinner!”
So if I’m hoping for peace at any time of the year, let alone during
the holidays, I can’t even count on myself to provide it. I’m stuck.
Until I remember that Christmas is about God overlooking his disgust
and focusing on his grace. Christmas is when we commemorate Christ
entering the world in order to save sinners and reconcile our souls to
Christ came to provide what we can’t attain for ourselves. In St.
John’s Gospel, Jesus declares: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give
to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be
troubled, neither let them be afraid.
So bear this in mind while you’re penciling in your great-niece’s
holiday polka recital, and determine to muddle through somehow.
Joy to the world!
Dave Dentel is author of The God Imperative: Why We Need Faith to Safeguard Reason, Science and Liberty.