I’m not so sure why we need to place a date on Christmas. When I’m at my best, this holy day is with me, no matter what the season. When I’m at my worst?
It’s been more than a while since I’ve sat in a church. There’s a quick joke about timbers creaking, but — really? I suspect God’s happy I’m there. Or, here.
One night, long ago, I was sitting in a monastery chapel. It was night. The church was lit by dim lights and flickering candles. Alone, legs crossed, hands and arms comfortably draped on the wooden pew, I wondered.
That’s a heck of a prayer, to build a church, on a hill, on an empty corner or in a misplaced heart.
There are so many motifs in houses of worship. Some are CinemaScopic, some humble. Except for all of my weddings, my dad had not set foot in a church the last 70 years of his life.
A campfire on a chilly night was church to Dad. So were the woods or clouds inching by. God talking to Dad was a coyote howling, a baby smiling at him in a store. Dad was Santa Claus, except he was on duty 365 days. I’m so profoundly rich to know many people like my father. They pick up the phone when you’re blue, or not so blue.
I’ve been given many great Christmas gifts over the years. My dopey sister-like substance and dear pal Leslie once gave me an expensive pair of genuine lace-up packer cowboy boots. They’re an objet d’art on the shelf above my desk. I still wear them when I ride. Great gift. But it’s the thought — the love behind it — that counts.
Do you ever give a present to someone — just for the heck of it? Just because you appreciate them? On the 3rd of May or 16th of August?
Do you sing?
In our churches this time of year, we have Christmas pageants.
Or so I’m told.
Choruses sing carols that strangely have nothing to do with acquiring prostitutes, popping caps in neighbors or sustaining future lingering neck injuries from wearing 228 pounds of bling. Christmas carols are a joyous sound. Some have trouble with the word, “God.” I don’t think God particularly cares what you call Him. I think He likes it when you do call Him.
I think even the most ardent atheist would have to admit. Something’s Going On.
Blood gets pumped. Food digested. Tides roll in and out. There’s tears, laughter, friends for some, family for others, in degrees lesser or greater, all to be thankful for, long after and before midnight to midnight of Christmas Day.
My youngest sibling Hondo Boston hand-made me a Christmas decoration decades ago. All sorts of lettering proclaims: “You’re Fat!” It’s an inside joke, stolen from an old Pee Wee Herman bit. Cracks me up — every — time — I — even — think — about — it. It’s Christmas to me, having someone who knows me so well.
I have a dear friend named Janice, a 40-day horseback ride away. We chat daily. There are dozens more I’m lucky if I talk with them once a year. Adore them. We share the same heart, even in July.
Do you set up decorations for the holidays? I do. All year round. That’s just me. I try to let that unique spirit that identifies who I am fly around the room and make art. There’s a small framed photo of another sister-like substance, Lisa-Clairisa. That close-up was taken 40 years ago. She’s in her jammies, face covered in hardened oatmeal. Lisa is giving me her patented Death Stare. I love that picture. It’s Christmas for me.
I have a little wind-up ceramic of three singing nuns. It belonged to my mom. Katherine was a most tormented soul, lost from cradle to grave. But, how that music box brought both smiles and tears.
They’re a wonderful gift (as long as you’re not giving them to someone else).
Remember writing? As in cards or letters? We do that at Christmas, in an exhausting avalanche or hastily scribbled signatures atop someone else’s poetry. Ever write somebody a note, just as a gift of yourself? Just to be noisy? Just to share tales from your life? To remind: Just how much you mean to me?
I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas on Christmas Day. I remember the sound hooves make crunching in hard snow. Sipping tea and taking forever to unwrap presents with my daughter (we include clues and riddles that must be unraveled as to the nature of the present). I used to host a Christmas chili party for 100 or so friends. One year, I accidentally made 15 gallons of my prized recipe way too spicy. Had to dump in most of Hawaii’s pineapples to offset the peppers.
Most Christmas Eves, I recite the Leigh Hunt poem, “Abou Ben Adhem” after dinner at a friend’s house. It’s about God smiling kindly on those who love others. We all read something of wonder, from the New Testament or “Night Before Christmas.”
Chili. Poetry. Not just dropping a buck in the can, but buying the Salvation Army guy a hot chocolate. Cowboy boots. A note out of the blue. These are all prayers. These are all giving of yourself.
There’s that wonderful, revealing, mystery-solving line from the Lord’s Prayer: “On Earth, as it is in Heaven…”
Really? Could it be as simple as that?
I’m beginning to suspect that’s how both Heaven, and Earth, are supposed to work, on the 25th of December or an overcast day in early June.
John Boston is a local writer.