Christmas is cinnamon-apple tarts baked in a wood-burning stove in a snow-covered tudor-style house in the woods; where three generations of a family resist the cold of wind and world with a stoked fireplace and simple, shared, love.
This image, and its thousand variations, is a powerful one. At its heart speaks the desire for love and need for hope. That’s why it won’t go away and refuses to be snuffed out by greed and trivializing. One notable depiction of this image is James F. Cooper’s classic novel, The Pioneers, where the author describes a Christmas celebrated on the nineteenth century American frontier. Another is, of course, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Though it ends with joy and reconciliation, there is a dark thread in A Christmas Carol. That darkness is the basic human problem at the heart of all drama—people who cannot feel love against those who can. Scrooge is of the former group but is transformed, via supernatural intervention, into a member of the latter. Such transformation is a staple of drama. It moves our hearts and reassures our souls. It stems from our recognition of the moral duality among people and our desire for its resolution. Light overcoming darkness: that’s the great human hope, and the meaning in Christmas.
I feel those Christmas associations as well as anyone, and have even written about them. In fact, my book of short stories, The Wider World, contains two stories with Christmas settings. In both of these I struggle with trying to enjoy the holidays with the knowledge of how bad things are. I gave The Spark a dystopian setting with an ecological theme that I think has to be there because so much of the Christmas spirit is prompted by nature (gentle snowfall, cold pristine air, the smell of evergreens, the stars shining like hosts of angels, and such). I tell a “saving Christmas” tale where Santa Claus teams up with the ailing Mother Nature to fight the dark forces killing everyone’s joy. I even included a poem with that theme.
How could I not include a nature theme, when 200 species a day are going extinct? And that little fact is, I believe, only an indication of a much larger existential crisis being thrust upon humanity. The nights are no longer pristine but are in perpetual haze from Stratospheric Aerosol Geoengineering. Snow is no longer gentle and powdery, but chemically induced with the consistency of wet cement. In such a time, Christmas becomes a desperate search for light in a dark world.
Now it is true that we must be careful about dwelling upon darkness, but we must also not delude ourselves into believing it does not exist.
So perhaps in light of such consideration, celebrating Christmas becomes an act of rebellion. Maybe when we disengage from the celebrations our rulers give us—Black Friday, garish lights, crowds fighting over electronic crap at Wal-Mart, “Bad Santa” movies—we say “no” to materialism and help Santa restore health to Mother Nature. Maybe we strike a blow against our controllers when we stay out of Wal-Mart and center our celebrations around the miracle of life and the warmth of shared love.
When the Dark Powers steal our wealth, hijack our traditions, and mortally wound Nature, we are left with either delusion or with what’s real. They may even do us a favor in that. Demons are bringers of enlightenment, aren’t they? When living’s artifice is stripped to the frame, we find that reality is compassion and cooperation. It’s revealed through sincere expressions of love, remorse, and forgiveness. That’s why I put a nativity picture among the homeless at the heart of The Spark.
So at this time I wish for you to know the love of family and friends in whatever your circumstances. Let this be our season, our joy, our celebration where we give each other expressions of love that create renewal. Our joy comes from fellowship and the hope that long dark nights will give way to a season of light. Hope is a star, bright enough to shine through the haze.