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A Christmas Conversation

December 14, 2009 by Dave Williams filed under News No Comments

“Have you seen the lights in Hamilton this year? And Round Hill? even Lincoln? I took the kids out driving the other night just to try to find the brightest. It seems that everyone is getting into the Christmas spirit.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen ’em. How can I miss ’em? Gaudy, vulgar displays of ostentatious one-upmanship. All they do is enrich VEPCO and pollute the night sky. Those mass-produced lighted deer everyone has prancing through their yards have about as much to do with Christmas as the muzak in the malls: ‘Angels we have heard on high/ Tell us to go out and buy!'”

“Hey, lighten up, already. I love the lights. Don’t be such a grinch.”

“Me? A Grinch? I didn’t steal Christmas. Wal-Mart did. Television did. GE did. I’m simply pointing it out. Why do you think people create all those expensive displays? At best, they represent a totally phony constructed kind of happiness that doesn’t do anything more to hide the darkness than the artificial cheer of alcohol does.”

“Ok, maybe the whole thing is forced, and maybe it’s even phony. But what makes you think that those of us who love the artificial lights don’t know the darkness that they keep at bay?”

“Because I hear nothing in the malls but ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ and ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.’ What’s the point of ‘Rudolph’ anyhow? All his colleagues hate the guy ’till the boss needs him, and then suddenly ‘all the other reindeer love him.’ It’s a celebration of office politics at its worst, as meaningful as a neon Frosty the Snowman on the roof. The only Christmas display I ever liked was one that said ‘BAH HUMBUG’ in blinking colored lights.”

“That, my friend, is because you are looking much too closely only at the fluff on the surface. Stand back a bit. Stand way back. The circle of light, even of the biggest displays, is not all that big. The loudest caroling cannot be heard two blocks away. We all feel the cold darkness of the season, the shortness of the days, the length of the nights, the death of the land. And we all have our personal wolves prowling out there. Even before Christianity put the “Christ” in Christmas, our ancestors had their festivals of light and artificial happiness at this time of year. Of course it’s artificial. What else have we humans got to keep away our prowling fears but our hopes and the artificial constructs that remind us of our hopes?”

“Then you admit that Jesus isn’t real? That the whole thing is one big, noisy, empty myth?”

“Whether Jesus is ‘real’ is not the point. Is hope real? We have three grim months of winter ahead of us. Will there be a Spring? I hope so. I even believe so. But hope is a pretty abstract concept. The birth of Jesus is a good symbol for the birth of hope. We need symbols; we can’t live in abstractions. To me, all those lights, artificial as they are, all those out-of-tune carolers, even the commercial vulgarity of the malls, is part of the need to construct out of whatever materials we have at hand symbols of our determination. The lights may be vulgar, but they are also brave, like a flickering candle in the wind. Some may see only the artificial light; you may see only the darkness; but to stand back and see them both, the flickering light framed by the blackness of darkness against the winter night, is a real symbol of real hope. So there, and Merry Christmas!”

David Williams’ latest book, Searching for God in the Sixties, is due out this Christmas

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