As part of our many Yuletide celebrations, Tyler and I watched The Muppet's Christmas Carol a few nights ago. I love that movie so much! Watching it as an adult is even better than as a kid, though, because you notice so many hilarious little comments and occurences that would otherwise go over your head.
I really enjoy the song with The Ghost of Christmas Present, when everyone is dancing in the square and rejoicing in full Christmas spirit. The lyrics are so perfect, I just have to quote a few of them here:
It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the sprit
The message if we hear it
Is make it last all year.
It's in the giving of a gift to another
A pair of mittens that were made by your mother
It's all the ways that we show love
That feel like Christmas
A part of childhood we'll always remember
It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love
It feels like Christmas.
You can obviously tell what my favorite lines are. I had this song stuck in my head last night before bed, and I started to think about how nice it is that we have Christmas every year. Yes, "it is the summer of the soul in December." Summer, the physical summer, is about the blooming of life. In my mind I see vegetables ripening in gardens; children, carefree and barefoot, playing with their friends; tables laden with plenty to eat. I see long, slow sunsets. I feel warm, noonday sun. Summer is when you can stop worrying about catching headcolds, or wearing coats and gloves, or finishing your homework. It's a time to take a break from the stresses of work and school--you take vacations, you celebrate the Fourth of July, you go swimming at the lake. That is the summer of the body. The summer of the soul, then, must be a break from our inward worries and walls. During Christmas, we shed some of our inward walls the way we shed layers of clothing in July. We are more willing to donate to charity, to participate in service projects, to think about what others need instead of what we want. We let our hearts soften and grow a little larger, to make room for loving people a little more. At least, I hope we do. If we do not, then the wonderful blessings of the Christmas season are lost upon us, just as if we insisted on wearing sweaters and staying indoors on a beautiful summer afternoon.
I think Heavenly Father understands the renewing quality of rituals and traditions. We are told to pray every day, to attend church once a week, and to fast once a month. All these regularly occurring events have one purpose: to recenter us on the things that are truly important in life. These things are so important to keep us strong in our faith. They also help us find peace and happiness. It seems fitting that once a year we have a special time to participate in rituals that bring the Spirit of Christ into our hearts a little deeper. We sing carols, we laugh and play games with our loved ones, we make (and eat!) special, yummy, fattening food, we read the story of the Christ child born in a manger. It gives us a little extra time to pause and let a little wonder back into our lives. Sometimes life feels so humdrum, and it is so refreshing to just be still for a few moments in the midst of our celebrations and wonder at the greatness and glory of our God. I think Christmas gives us an opportunity, many opportunities, to do just that.
To return to the song I mentioned above, the importance of Christmas is to make this message--the message that God sent His Son to suffer, die, and live again for us--leave its imprint on our hearts all year. By the time we feel it fading away, Christmas will come again to renew and re-strengthen our sense of wonder. I think this, above all, should be our what we take away from our celebrations of Christmas. Strength, joy, love, peace in knowing there is a God in heaven--enough to last through a new year, with all its new challenges and possibilities.