Soon, it will be Christmas Day.
There will be reunions and parties across the land. Children will be sitting on the lap of a jolly old man dressed in a red suit, confessing their
deepest desires. The world population of swine will drop impressively as people feast. Gifts will be exchanged. And finally, the morning of December
25th, children world over will be greeted by a shining tree filled with presents.
And among all this gaiety, there will be the most heinous feelings of sorrow of any time of the year. There will be suicides and depressions. Some
people will be homeless, shivering in the harsh coldness of winter. Some will die of exposure. Many more will die of a broken heart and spirit. There
will be automobile accidents, and some of these will involve the ending of a life. Each one will bring a season of sorrow and pain to those who
survive the unfortunate.
I sit here as I write this, huddled under some blankets in a drafty home. I am unemployed, now for almost 4 months. My savings are almost gone. I have
a few prospects for a job after the holidays, but only a few. I managed to get my children a few presents this year, but much less than they usually
get. I had intended to make some presents for my extended family this year, since I cannot afford to buy much. But alas, it has rained for the last
week and a half, and I have not been able to work on them. Now it's too late.
Come Wednesday, there will be a celebration at my mother's house. I cannot avoid it; it happens within sight of my home. My sister and her family
will be there, and they will bring presents that I cannot hope to match this time. My mother will no doubt be watching the difference between us. So
will my stepfather, who seems anxious to show me a failure at every opportunity anyway. I will be berated at my lack of gainful employment, my long
hair, my beard, and worst of all, my obsession with my 'crazy ideas'. My home is not as nice as theirs are, my bank account is not as expansive as
it should be, and it will all be my fault. I dread it immensely.
And yet, there is a cedar tree sitting here in front of me, adorned with tiny lights shiny garlands, and delicate ornaments. We, the whole family,
went out and cut it down from where it grew at the edge of the mountain I call home. We already had the trimmings. There will be a few precious gifts
wrapped in brightly colored paper under it next week. After the reunion of Christmas Eve, I will come home to that tree and sit here surrounded by my
family. We will examine the gifts they got and talk about the events of the day. That night, the kids will go to bed, and my wife and I will practice
that tradition of staying up late to set the few items we managed to get just so underneath that tree. The next morning, we will awaken to the
greatest gift I can ever hope to receive for Christmas: the sight of my children discovering what we have managed to give them.
You see, the material things sitting under that tree are not what we have given them. Those things can be broken or stolen or lost. What is more
important is the love they represent in some woefully inadequate way. Both kids understand that Christmas will be slim this year, and both have told
me repeatedly that it doesn't matter to them. Both know that the tree itself is a borrowed pagan symbol of the Winter Solstice festival. So are the
lights, representing the stars on a cold cloudless winter night. None of that matters either. We all know what it is and Who it is we celebrate.
Christmas night, I will go to bed and lie there, deep in my thoughts. I will be thinking of all those who have so much less than we do. I will be
saying quiet prayers for those who have lost a loved one at this worst possible time of year, for those who do not have a shelter over their heads,
and for those shivering in worst cold than we will have. I will pray for peace for everyone who is angry. I will pray that those who are suffering
around the world will have their suffering eased somehow. And I will again offer myself to be an instrument in easing any suffering I come across, as
I do every year. Finally, I will drop off to sleep, probably in mid-prayer, thankful for the things we do have. For we have so much...
We have each other, and a stable family.
We have hope for the future, regardless of what CNN says.
We have a house for shelter from the weather.
We have a mountain behind us, to shelter us from the dire winds of winter.
We have an old kerosene heater, and plenty of blankets.
We have food to eat.
We have clean water to drink.
We have clean air to breathe.
We have our health and strength to survive.
We have our faith in the One whose birth we celebrate.
And as I drift off to sleep, I will realize again that happiness comes not from a store, or from a bottle, or from a chemical concoction. Happiness
comes from inside. I will be happy that night, despite my material situation, while across the world so many will be miserable and yet seemingly so
much better off than I.
to each and every one who reads this. May you all find that inner happiness and joy that exists within you. And may the new
year bring you peace and comfort in all you do, and success in all you attempt. I know I will have a busy first part of the year, and will still be a
lot less active here than I would like to be. May that change as well. For now, I have too many things on the ball at once, and while I just finished
one, another has appeared. I really don't have the time to even write this, but some things just have to be said.
Rest assured, however, that when you least expect it, TheRedneck will pop back up.
We're funny like that.