Rev. John F. Hudson
In our rush, the bulls in the china shops, we are breaking our own lives. – Anne Voskamp
And… .it started.
The rush. The dash, The sprint. Marathon. You know, the race that many of us as Americans take every year, from Thanksgiving Eve to New Years Eve. For a time that is barely 11% of any given year, barely forty days. , we certainly try to cram as much as possible between these two holidays, this long season of the saint and the holly.
What could we call this shared frenzy that many of us embark on at the end of November? This orgy of shopping and baking, traveling, shopping, wrapping, decorating, eating, drinking and partying? What about the turkey trot? The holiday hubbub? The December derby or maybe… Santa’s “double toothpick” sleigh ride. (Look for him.)
I know I sound too dramatic but if you drive anywhere these days in December and hit bumper to bumper traffic or visit a crowded mall or if you’re trying to finish all your year-end stuff at work or when you’re having a hard time scheduling visits with family and friends… well. It’s like overnight the crop goes from fifty-five miles an hour the day before Turkey to ninety miles an hour, and then it doesn’t slow down until may the new year finally arrive.
It’s not just experienced by people like me, who “take” the vacations for a living: the clergy, the retail people, the restaurant workers, the parcel delivery drivers, the employees of the parcel shops. postal services and transport workers. Many of us are forced to board the high speed holiday train and not be able to get off until early next month.
There are a lot of reasons for this.
Businesses, especially after COVID: It’s up to you and me to open our wallets and spend a lot of money. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent an average of $ 650 on holiday gifts in 2020. That does not include travel, dining out, or decorations. That’s a lot of money, especially if you’re on a fixed income, at the bottom of the pay scale, or if you don’t have a job. For those with less means, it must be hard to see all those sparkling and happy consumer ads that promise happiness, but if only we spend. And even if we can afford to shop until we fall, there is always the risk of having a bad hangover after the holidays.
I am not Scrooge. I’m not anti-holiday cheer. I love the silver bells! I love to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” at the top of my lungs. FIVE GOLDEN RINGS !! I love the free time to be with the people I love. Cherish Christmas carols, hymns and rituals. But at this point in my life, what I want most isn’t in a Macy’s box or the bottom of an eggnog glass or on a calendar bursting with so much to do. December activity, for me, doesn’t mean meaning, and not just now, but all year round. Buying does not bring me happiness. Overwork no longer looks like a badge of honor.
Instead, this is what I want for the holidays.
I would like the world to really work towards what is at the heart of the message and the story of my tradition of faith: peace on earth and goodwill towards all people. It would be a nice gift. I would like to slow down this month, come back spiritually, pray more, listen more for the calm of December. The days darken and the nights grow longer and the air cools and snow falls on a silent night. It would be nice. What I really hope is that after two years away from my Christmas circle of love, that this year we can come together. To eat around a comfortable table and tell the same old cheesy jokes and revisit trustworthy traditions and remember how much we need each other.
I would love if more people could appreciate and appreciate the religious traditions celebrated at this time: ancient tales of wisdom and sacred music that get the mind high. Whether or not you have a faith to claim, I hope we can all find a deeper meaning in the holidays. A spirit of hope that lasts all year round. A memory that to give is so much more important than to receive.
OK. I took it out of my system. My vacation complaint. My Christmas kvetch.
Now, I’m going to do my best to relax and really enjoy the warm and beautiful days ahead, and to do it at a reasonable and sober pace. And I pray and hope that you too will find your sacred and cherished place in the world at this sacred time of the year.
Reverend John F. Hudson is Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, Sherborn, Massachusetts (pilgrimsherborn.org). If you have any comments, please send them to [email protected]n.org or to The Dover-Sherborn Press ([email protected]).