When I think back on Christmas in my childhood, I mostly remember the anticipation before opening gifts and the ensuing days of enjoying those gifts during the holiday break from going to school. I especially remember the Atari 2600 with the wood veneer, which resulted in countless hours of my childhood being dedicated to achieving high scores in Frogger, River Raid, and Missile Command.
As I grew older, I still enjoyed the gifts, but I adopted the Christian narrative to understand this time of year and was always reminded that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” which conveniently rhymed. This made it easy to remember the religious messaging, but it was much too late before I realized that I could have inserted any word at the beginning and still have “reason” and “season” to rhyme at the end. “Atari is the reason for the season” had potential, though it would not have inspired many Christmas musicals. But I digress.
As one who no longer embraces Christianity, the Christmas holiday presents an interesting moment of reflection. It’s one of those moments where it seems like there would be a vacuum where there used to be religious devotion. Instead of a spiritual vacuum, I’ve discovered that my enjoyment of this holiday has simplified and grown more personally profound.
In the darkening days of winter, I am naturally predisposed to personal reflection and melancholy, sometimes bordering on depression. This has been a difficult year and I’ve been trying to acknowledge my own disappointment and doubts about the future. But as the natural cycle of the Earth’s tilt is moving toward light, this season presents an opportunity to look for hope and light in life. I am taking the opportunity that Christmas provides to stop the 9-5 grind and share gifts with those I love and look them in the eyes to cherish their lives as a gift in and of itself. The hope in that act is much greater than any obligatory exchange of goods.
While I understand the inspiration that millions of people receive from the narrative of Jesus’ birth, regardless of its veracity, for me the meaning of Christmas exists in the extraordinary here and now.
My friend Stuart recently shared this song by Tim Minchin with me that captures my feelings on the whole affair: