By: Suzanne Maiden
My therapist said today: “Christmas is a diabolical system in America…. We have lost our way.” Whoa. I’d never heard those two words, ‘Christmas’ and ‘diabolical’ used together before. Let me explain.
I began our session saying that I felt discombobulated during this Christmas season. I love the idea of Christmas. I love the idea of giving to others to our fullest capacity without expectation of return. I love my increased intense feeling of connection to the Divine. I love the collective celebration of the miracle of Christ. It is beautiful. But I wasn’t feeling the love this season.
Instead, I couldn’t wait for it all to be over. I disliked fighting the traffic and shortness in others, whether is be sales people or customers. And of course family complexes and neurosis glibly come trotting out in full expression. Nothing about my experience felt reverent or restorative or remotely holy.
When I explored my dissatisfaction with my therapist, Barry, he replied: “Your feelings are accurate because Christmas is a diabolical system in America.” What? Barry continued and said, ”Unfortunately, Christmas in America has become an extroverted experience.” How? Because many of us are outward and excessive during this time. Our social calendars are often overbooked with parties, some we actually complain about feeling obligated to attend. We loose our focus and the point of togetherness. The Sacred, Soul, the Divine, God feels mysteriously absent. We consume too much food and often too much alcohol. We wake up hungover and extra pounds on the bathroom scale as evidence of our gluttony. We purchase presents out of obligation instead of heartfelt love.
Christmas is a time for reflection and a recapitulation of our connectedness to all that Is. Christmas is the season to increase our commune with God. Of course, we can collectively celebrate and honor this event. But the way in which many of us do somehow and sadly feels vacant of the Sacred. I long for something deeper and more meaningful.
Christmas is about the miracle of light; it’s about the miracle of Christ’s light in the midst of darkness. This is something to celebrate, but in a much more introverted and reverent manner. One of the loveliest Christmases I experienced was in Venice.
I was active duty Air Force and stationed at RAF Bentwaters, England. My girlfriend, Paula, invited me to spend Christmas with her and her family in Venice. I vividly remembering walking the streets on Christmas Eve and the excitement, merriment and joy from others exuded everywhere. The dinner we ate felt more about the anticipation and sanctity of Christ’s birth than the menu. The gourmet cuisine was to honor the blessed gift. The message of the Divine seemed ever present. This was two decades ago, and perhaps things have changed. I hope they have not sadly followed our excessive commercialism.
I am aware that this post may sound Anti-American. Not so. I love my country. I feel blessed to be an American. I proudly served 5 years Active Duty Air Force. I get tears when I stand for our National Anthem or see our flag boldly blowing in the wind.
My disappointment in Christmas just left me to examine what is the missing piece. I agree with my therapist: Christmas in America has become a diabolic system contaminated with commercial excessiveness. We mistakenly regard Christmas as an extroverted event. In small doses and when done with meaning, this is fine. But, we have become gluttonous consumers and slaves to commercialism. If we want a deeper experience, if we seek to access the essence of the Divine, then we need to reorient our stance inward.