After we put Christmas away…
January is such a great month. It feels downright stimulating to lay off the rich foods, clear the sugar from our veins, work up a sweat on the old stationary bicycle – and feel so righteous about it. January is also that wonderful time when I’ve worn out my desire to go to the mall ever again. Every day that I don’t charge a penny on my credit card, I feel like I’m bringing a healthy balance back to my life & checkbook. (SO much joy for doing so little!). It’s that dark, cold time of the year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), when we may feel some cabin fever, but sleep comes so naturally. It’s great to go to bed a littler earlier, turn on the electric blanket, and curl up like a big old bear (we’ve even stored up the extra fat to sustain us through the hibernation). I just hope, as we throw out the dried-up Christmas tree and store away all our decorations, that we don’t put away Christmas entirely—that is the best part of Christmas.
We seem to care more for others during the holidays and make special effort to express those feelings with our cards, our greetings, our donations to those who are not as blessed as we are. And then, for some reason, we act almost as though those expressions were part of our over-indulgence, and we seem to withdraw to a spirit that isn’t nearly as generous. It almost seems as though we’re a little embarrassed now, in the cold of winter, for all that warmth we shared. Do we think it got a little too cheesy, a little too over the top? What is we took a treat – a healthy one – to all our neighbors now or in April or September? Would people think we had gotten all weird on them or something? How did we get started with the idea that we should be what we really ought to be in December and then pull back and wait again for eleven months?
I remember a United Way director who said that Americans love to buy turkey for a single mom with kids at Thanksgiving or Christmas, even though she would be helped much more by a case of peanut butter in August – and that’s when no one thinks about her. Interesting. “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent…” It sounded good, didn’t it? When I was a bishop, I once had our chorister do all Christmas songs during a sacrament meeting in July. I told our members that we always say that we want to keep the spirit of Christmas with us all year, but we won’t work very hard to do it. The songs were just a little reminder. Maybe we should sing them all year.
To celebrate Christ’s birthday, we eat too much and spend too much, and we feel guilty about it. It feels good to return to some austerity. We vow not to get so carried away next year. Suppose we actually did that? Suppose we cut back on some of the eating & spending next year but began right now to spread out the spiritual side of Christmas to every month of our year? It may sound a little too idealistic, but don’t we actually know people who do just that? The fact is, there are those around us who need us every month of the year, and we need them. We also need Christ – his Spirit – with us, always. I think this should be the year we make some changes. Let’s do this year right, and then make next Christmas the fitting conclusion to a year full of kindness & generosity. I’m serious. We can do it.