“Somehow I realized that songs, music, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and many sweet words do not make Christmas. Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings. Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine. Things will never look just right or feel just right. If they did, someone would be lying… But it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior” (Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak).
It’s easy to make Christmas an event. You spend roughly a month or so getting everything just right, buying all the presents, decorating the house up, wearing all the festive clothes, and then bam! it’s over. All that frantic activity for one day. Then there’s the post-Christmas letdown.
But if Christmas becomes a state of mind — keeping in your mind’s eye the picture of the holy infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger, surrounded by Joseph and Mary and shepherds — then the joy can stay after the presents are put away and the decorations go back in the box and the festive attire returns to the back of your closet. You can conjure up warm memories of Advent and Christmas at any point of the year and not just in December.
I admit that I have OCD — Obsessive Christmas Disorder. I love the season of Christmas maybe a little too much. That’s why I tend to go overboard on the ornaments and the shirts and the sweaters and everything else Santa and Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls. I have a dream where I own a big enough house where I can have a dedicated Christmas room with the tree still lit and decorated where I can go when I need a break from the world.
But if I keep the spirit of Christmas, I don’t have to wait another 364 more days to experience the joy. I can carry it with me all through the year.