Can we keep the Christmas Spirit alive longer?

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By Mary Schmuck

It has been more than a half month since Christmas 2007 — already. I find that breathtaking to realize.

It has been said many times during my lifetime that we should strive to keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year. May I invite all of us to join in this noble effort — whether we were celebrating feasts in other faith traditions, family, generosity, winter, light — all those observances included in our frequent wish of “Happy Holidays”!

That wish for happiness and goodness is for everyone, whether in my Catholic Christian faith or not. It is a prayerful invitation and wish for good things for all and not a demand for agreement with me and all who share this faith tradition.

I hope others, sharing in their own big feasts or seasonal changes have had truly beautiful and meaningful times to spur us on to keeping the spirit alive. I hope their wishes for good then and now extend to all of us, too.

There were other major observances occurring in those days last month — in our Jewish, Muslim and African-American communities to cite just a few. It seems to me at least that at its best, “Happy Holidays” was an exercise in inclusiveness, not a device for flattening all of us.

Having said this, I do wonder why we Christians haven’t been more intentional in celebrating that time so sacred for us. We after all celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, a really big matter. Some intentional moves:

Did I

• Use the beautiful Madonna and Child postage stamps? (I’m still using the really big batch I bought in early December.)

• Use religious-themed greeting cards?

• Use “Christmas” language in my good wishes?

• Devote some time in my busy days reflecting on what this feast means and how it should affect my life? Thank God for all it means?

• How did the quality and quantity of my prayer time compare to the time I devoted to hearing/looking over ads, keeping up with the schedule of parties and the whole gift thing? If this comparison was way out of balance, what are the consequences for me, for us? What do I want to do about it, now and next Fall?

A second matter here: what to do about increasingly early starts in celebrating Christmas (October on in 2007). We seem to be big on anticipating (in the sense of speeding up things) but seemingly unable to wait until the time arrives and savor it for days/weeks afterward. It seems to me something gets lost this way.

There are a lot of reflections on gifts and gift giving at that time of year, too.

• Are there gifts to give and receive that are beyond “things”?

• In hindsight from January 2008: what are the really important gifts I desire and want to give?

• Is it time to include our Earth home on our gift list — all year long: taking very concrete steps to take care of it much better, seeing these definite steps as gifts I can give others — near and far away?

As I reflect, I truly wonder what precious Advent and Christmas Time next year will be like. Our climate seems to be changing, international relations seem extra troubled, our national and international economy is grumbling, we are moving full steam into national elections that will be settled by next Advent — if our president hasn’t declared a national emergency by that time and taken over all branches of U.S. government (such is our national emergency plan at this time).

Weighty wonderings thoseee.

However, the wonderful message of Christmas endures: that God has created us all, redeemed us all, loves us all, and is always with us. As challenging as life is or gets all year, God is always with us — cause for calming any of our fears.

The gift of daily blessings to all.