‘Tis the season – amid the shopping frenzy – for reading and hearing various reminders of “what Christmas is really all about.”
They tend mostly to be about organizations that provide gifts and Christmas dinners to poor children and their families. Those are wonderful, laudable things to do, and they are indeed among the things Christmas is all about. They are just not the only things. Here are some reminders to me of a few others.
It is not news that, in our hemisphere, this is the darkest time of year. Although I am not a fan of short days and long nights, Dec. 21 is also one of my favorite days of the year because it holds the brightest promise – a promise celebrated since ancient times.
Starting now, it will get no darker. The movement back to the light begins almost imperceptibly – a few seconds a day to start – but it is inexorable. The light will triumph over the dark, a promise kept with a celestial rhythm set since the beginning of time. It is a promise Christians also observe in the celebration of the birth of Christ; one of His names is “Light of the world.”
I have thought about that more than usual this season because the darkness of human mortality has been closer to me than at most times in my generally very fortunate life.
It is part of the human condition. We are not built to last. As one of my favorite writers observes rather caustically from time to time, “The chances of death are 100 percent.”
Still, there are times when it seems more of a thief, arriving well ahead of schedule with what appears to be random cruelty.
At this time of year, while the toughest thing for millions of us is figuring out what gift to get for friends or family members who already have everything they need, a close friend for decades is watching the gift of her own life fade while she struggles with cancer.