Festivus for the Rest of Us
I considered faking my own death this year, just to avoid the Christmas Season – seriously. I hate Christmas – the last decent Christmas I remember was when I bought some Evening In Paris Perfume for my girlfriend JoAnn. Frankly that year it was Christmas Spirit mixed with First Love and a little lust – a rather pleasant combination – and I still do remember that feeling even though 50 years have passed. Some feelings die hard and I am eternally grateful.
But from that point its been all downhill – Christmas sales starting in July, trees erected mid-November to begin their needle drop, the blare of endless Christmas Carols (For Hell’s sake can’t anyone write something new). Santa’s hawking everything from Tombstones to Toilet Paper. Is there no shame among Santa’s– no union that forbids outright Santa buffoonery – or at least restrains the endorsement of throwaway plastic enema bottles? If I had my way there would only be the Coca Cola Santa, the Mall Santa, and St. Nick having a pint of Guinness Stout with a good looking Redhead in the background.
Hate the greeting “Happy Holidays” – I usually reply in my best jovial tone – “AND MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU, YOU ANTI-CHRISTIAN TERRORIST”. Usually that retort brings somewhat of a halt to the smiley exchange at the local haberdashery. As I leave I ramp it up yelling at a good 160 decibels – giving that well known farewell by a former governor, formerly married, currently idiot Arnold – you know how it goes – “I’ll be back”. Whatever holiday cheer there was in the store slowly circles the drain – Ho Ho Ho.
Guess it’s the commercial bashing of my feeble mind that sets off feelings of rage, violence and revenge. Would I like to get my foot on the necks of all Christmas advertisers – who wouldn’t? Like to get a chokehold around the throats of those singing “Do You Hear What I Hear” – I would – see how they like hearing it the 99th time with popped eardrums and blackened tongue. The Christmas holiday is supposed to celebrate the birth of the Savior, but somehow I have let it bring out the worse in me and the rest of his children.
So, what to do, what to do? The title of this little story is Festivus for the Rest of Us. If you ever watched the Seinfeld TV Show, you know where the term comes from. Its celebrating Christmas in a way that is different than the norm – the norm being, of course, the vomiting of gifts upon one another. One of my particular hatred’s is the bringing over of small Christmas fare, by neighbors, on Christmas Eve; dropping the food or drink item and then seeing them waddling away at a semi-trot. We all do it with extreme malice, knowing that there is no way in hell that the receiver can reciprocate, which, naturally, makes them lose whatever small grasp they had on the Christmas Spirit.
Last Christmas I stopped and bought a few pieces of trash from the 99 cent store – slightly tarnished Guava Juice treats – knowing that if I hit the neighbors early on Christmas Eve Day, that I could expect them to scurry around and get me something that is at least 10 times as valuable – an additional plus is that they have to hustle, straining to reciprocate – rather than easing into the Eve via the “all is calm, all is bright” refrain.
In pondering this entire Christmas *&%#@! Fire drill, I have come up with a Festivus for the Rest of Us that you might consider. It concerns following some of what the savior taught during his sojourn here on earth.
But first lets take a look at this man who became our Savior; whose birthday we primarily celebrate with the ringing of the cash register. Who was this man whose birth we celebrate each December and whose death we remember each April – year in and year out, for the last twenty centuries?
He wasn’t wealthy, or had social prestige, but puzzled his elders in his youth. He could spread a table for 5000, but had no wheat fields or fisheries. He healed many without medical training, and did so for free – mending more broken hearts than all the physicians who have ever lived. He never founded a school, but has had more students than all schools put together; he never lifted a weapon, nor led an army, yet no leader has ever had his name used as much for good and evil in battle. He never wrote a book, yet more books about him have been written than any other. He could touch a face and the blind could see, and bring life to the dead, yet he wept and struggled and suffered physical agony far beyond any other man. His followers forsook him at the moment of his greatest need, yet he forgave them and still called them his brothers.
When he died, his best friends denied him, walked away from him and few mourned his passing. Yet the sun was darkened, the earth heaved and all nature shook in agony. And yet Death could not bind him nor corrupt his body, nor the tomb hold him.
Remarkably little was written about his life – did he have a sweetheart; did he get to enjoy that rush of first love, cradle his own first born in his arms, did he see any of his posterity begin to grow? Did he ever lie contented, at peace with the world, and grateful just to do his father’s work? Did he feel the love of lifelong friends or a loving wife, who would be there no matter what? We are led to believe that those emotions, those greatest of uplifting feelings were denied him. But I’m not so sure – I’d like to think that his father arranged his life such that he did. Guess we’ll not know in our own mortal life.
But again, I think, what manner of man was this, who impacted the entire world, who did all he did in a short 30 years – no wonder we have celebrated the day of his birth for 2000 plus years.
If this singular man were to come this year at Christmas to his own birthday party, what would he say and do – should he come – to be with us, to celebrate his own birthday? Well I guarantee he would not come in an SUV filled with crap from Target, Costco, Best Buy and other purveyors of high priced brain numbing electronic junk – which diverts us from the real reason for celebrating his birth.
I think it might go something like this should he drop in at his own party. He would say, “Hey guys, how’s it going? I do like to be remembered on my birthday even after the roughly 2000 other birthdays I’ve had”. Frankly though, the earlier birthday celebrations were more to my liking. This endless gift exchange doesn’t make sense. I did get a little Frankincense, Gold and Mir on the day I was born, but those old guys didn’t expect anything in return. They just came by to say Hi and to leave something for me – to be held by my mom and dad. Really neat things, but still too expensive, in my opinion”.
“What do I like to see as gifts to celebrate my birthday? Well, something from your heart would be nice. Just write me a note on a blank card. Tell me how you feel about me as your friend and brother – just write down your feelings – I’ll know and understand your heart. Take it out and look at it from time to time.
Or make something with your own hands and give that creation to someone that will value it.” No, not assembling a Transformer or other piece of soon to be disposed of plastic, but something you fashion on your own. Crude? Not professional grade? Doesn’t matter – just put your heart into it and give it to someone you have never met before for “he who has done it unto the least of these my brethren has done it unto me”. Don’t say anything, they will know that you gave it to them in my name”.
“If you can, bring someone into your home overnight that you wouldn’t ever consider having there and celebrate the season of my birth – sure, you can go down to the homeless shelter and give blankets and dish out soup, but anyone can do that. Challenge yourself, really reach down to where you are uncomfortable – make a real difference in a person’s life for just one evening. A person who has lost everything, perhaps even their mind – maybe someone whose soul is adrift. It will change your life and it will change theirs – just for that one night – you can be their star like the one that shown so brilliantly on me and my dad and mom so long ago. Stretch and reach and risk. You have it within you. Endless breakable presents – just do without for this one year. It will make a difference to you, to your family and to me.”
“Toast me and wish me well on my birthday, maybe even a short prayer or two sent my way to help your brothers and sisters who stumble and fall and get up and try again. It will help me to help them through this life, to give them strength, to bring them peace. Make it a time of forgiveness, for good cheer, for thoughts about the cosmos and the eons that have passed and are yet to come. Ponder your existence like my mom did all those years ago in Luke, 2:19 when “Mary pondered all these things in her heart”.
“But most of all lift your face, or your glass or your thoughts and wish me well on my birthday – I will know and your good wishes will help me as I go along my way.”
And so I think the Savior would like us to celebrate his coming to the earth over 2000 years ago just like that – sort of a Festivus for the Rest of Us. It will be hard to turn off the endless music, hard not to get the newest Apple product for a favorite grandson, hard to avoid the endless beat of commercial drums. But this Christmas, I am really, really going to try – seriously try to do as he asks – try for that one day that celebrates his birth, to follow his example, to try to clear my head of all the Noise that rolls in every single day – and – do as he asks, at least for that one day, to love one another as he has loved me.