A CHRISTMAS GREETING
Christmas is here again! It’s my favorite time of year! I especially enjoy this season when the weather turns cold and I can don my Navy peacoat, tartan scarf, and wool cap. This year has been colder than usual too.
Attending church and feasting spiritually upon traditional Christmas carols and other glorious Advent music, including selections from Handel’s Messiah, are always refreshment for the soul. This year I was delighted to listen to a selection from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, performed with a middle-school symphony orchestra. You might not think so, but the performance was moving.
I even received a new recipe for hot chocolate from a fellow patron of Panera’s, which is a cozy little sandwich shoppe here in town. The recipe suits the weather (although the Kentucky bourbon, I’m told, is optional).
In addition, my wife Lynn has been busy decorating our home for the season, admirably matching the warmth inside with the freezing temperatures out. She has given new meaning to the phrase “hearth and home.”
My grandchildren prevailed upon me again this season to view with them Bob Clark’s classic flick, A Christmas Story, with Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Peter Billingsley. It’s become a much anticipated annual event in our family. The movie could have been patterned by my own childhood. As I watch it year in and year out, I recognize everything about the culture it portrays – the “double” and “triple-dog” dares, the orange bar of Lifebuoy soap, the excitement of buying a Christmas tree, the distress inflicted by the school bully, and, yes, the incessant warning about BB guns which “will shoot your eye out.” The town square reminds me of the one in 1940’s Freeport, Texas, where I would go to share with Santa Claus exactly what I wanted for Christmas. Even the parental horror with which the infamous “F-word” was met brought back memories. About 60 years ago, I remember making the mistake of asking my mother what the word meant, and as a federal prosecutor conducting cross-examination she inquired of me, with raised eyebrows, where I had heard it. When I confessed “the pool hall,” I was royally pummeled. To avoid further parental muggings, I thought it might be wise to discover what the word meant. Some of the older boys took immense pleasure explaining it to me, and in some detail I might add. So much for formal “sex education.”
The line of demarcation between the sacred and the secular, if there really is one, is fuzzy. A Christmas Story was intended as comedy, but there is an aspect of the movie that is undeniably spiritual. When I think how life was then – with a simple, stalwart lifestyle, a strong moral consensus and common core of family values, and a school classroom as an extension of both – the memory kindles my heart. This does not mean that there weren’t social evils then, which were in need of remedy; certainly, there were. It also does not imply that scientific and technological improvements have not graced the passing years; surely, they have. Yet the point is that we have suffered the steady erosion of our culture, which has furnished the ties binding us together as a people. No matter whatever else we may have, its social value is minimized in the absence of a strong, homogeneous culture as the fount from whence a myriad blessings have flowed over the years. Today it almost goes without saying that, in various venues throughout America, many of our traditional values, even Christmas itself, is under assault. Militant atheists rejoice at the thought of enlightening us, but what they really succeed in doing is tearing at the fabric of American culture.
I don’t want to think much about any of those negatives now. If you’re like me, you probably feel that they’re emphasized enough during the rest of the year. Suffice to say, in the wake of Christmas comes the New Year. I hope that one of your resolutions will be to support traditional American culture whenever and however you can against all the forces of darkness.
In the meantime, my Christmas wish is that you will, at least in some small but significant way, touch the heart and mind of a child this year through your gifting and your expressions of love.
From me and my family to you and yours – have a most joyful and inspirational Christmas!
December 14, 2013