“Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell, the Christmas we get we deserve.”
I Believe in Father Christmas, Greg Lake
Well, Christmas 2018 is upon us, ready or not. We all should be ready, since the stores have been advertising stuff since about Labor Day. At least it seems that way, doesn’t it?
Christmas in the 21st century is a mystery to some, me included. I mean, there is the overall mystery of the incarnation, God made man. Add to that the confusion between the sacred and the secular; the distance between “Joy to the World” and “The Christmas Blues,” the bustle and the bother, and some folks just want it over with as soon as possible.
I recently viewed a History Channel documentary on Christmas, which pointed out that for many years, there has always been the dichotomy surrounding the holiday.
For many, many years, the organized church didn’t want much to do with Christmas, seeing as how the early Christians sort of co-opted the winter solstice parties of the Romans and Norsemen such as Saturnalia and the Yule celebrations — along with an ancient deity born on Dec. 25.
Most scholars now believe Jesus, on the other hand, was probably born sometime around spring, due to the shepherds being in the fields.
Some of those early “observations” of the Christmas season were — ahem — rowdy to say the least, and the church fathers wanted nothing to do with anything so Bacchanalian.
It was only until the 1800s and after the efforts of authors such as Washington Irving, Charles Dickens and Clement C. Moore, as well as the actions of Queen Victoria, that Christmas began to get into the shape we see today. That same documentary pointed out that 98 percent of people in America celebrate Christmas in some way.
Technically, we are in the season of Advent until Christmas Day, and Christmastide doesn’t begin until then, lasting for 12 days, just like the song; culminating in the day of Epiphany on Jan. 6.
When I was a kid, I didn’t worry about any of that stuff. I just knew we got out of school and I loved the Christmas season! Still do, in fact. I like it all: the music, the movies, the fellowship time with family and friends, the church services on Christmas Eve, all of it.
In fact, when I was a young man in the ’70s, I would borrow my daddy’s Santa suit, fire up my ’62 Pontiac I had dubbed The White Wonder (a wonder if it started and an even bigger wonder if it ran) and make the rounds of some kids in the Jefferson area for a visit with Santa. Heck, seems to me we even dropped by the Waffle House one Christmas Eve and later endeavored to help some folks with car trouble; the Jolly Old Elf trying to be helpful.
Earlier in the season, there was no buying of an artificial or even a real tree. We would just go out in somebody’s woods and cut down a cedar tree. I think I am OK revealing that. Surely the statute of limitations has run out on pilfering Christmas trees.
I enjoy some of the Hallmark stuff, but it’s hard to beat the classics such as “White Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I confess I still am a little surprised someone has not objected to Linus telling us what Christmas is really all about. Bing Crosby’s crooning of the titular song in “White Christmas,” a song he actually introduced in Holiday Inn, remains the No. 1 best-selling record of all time, while his rendition of “Silent Night” checks in at No. 3.
I love hearing Dino swing through “Let it Snow” and “Marshmallow World.” It wouldn’t be Christmas without hearing Elvis let us know how “Blue Christmas” would be without you. (The duets album featuring present day artists mixed with him on Christmas classics is an amazing feat of mixing and engineering, by the way.)
I like hearing Bobby Darin tell us about a “Christmas Auld Lang Syne.” And Michael Crawford’s version of “O Holy Night” off of the excellent David Foster Christmas album, remains the single best version of that sacred song I have ever heard.
We may not understand exactly how all of this came about, or why God would even bother with us, except for love; but just because we do not understand a thing does not mean that it is not so.
I do not understand what there was before the nothing became the something in violation of all known laws of physics. Yet, whether you say the Big Bang or God said “Let there be light!,” obviously something happened because here we are at this time and place.
I am a bit naive, but not naive enough to believe that everyone is going to be merry this Christmas. I weep for those who are in desperate straits and who regard the Christmas season with depression, fear and trembling. I pray for those folks.
But if you are filled with joy, your eyes still shine and you get a little flutter and warmth on Christmas morning as your kids and grandkids tear into their presents, that’s OK, too. You have my permission to be happy.
I began this column with a quote from Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas.” Allow me to finish up with another quote from that same song:
“I wish you a hopeful Christmas. I wish you a brave new year. All anguish, pain, and sadness leave your heart and let your road be clear.”
Merry Christmas everybody! May 2019 be your best year yet.
R. Garry Glenn is an author, educator, broadcast journalist and world-champion weightlifter. As a certified lay speaker from McEver Road United Methodist Church, he has served as a guest speaker in churches around Northeast Georgia. He and his wife Jill live in Oakwood.