Even as we sit here on Christmas Eve, the work week finally over, my thoughts go to those who celebrate different holidays. Or none at all. Cultural Christians may find it difficult to believe that some sects—thinking themselves strictly biblical—observe no holidays. Not even birthdays, some of them. You may be doubting the accuracy of that statement, but my second college roommate was one of them. He believed any holiday was idolatrous, and celebrating birthdays self aggrandizing. Perhaps it’s not surprising that he can’t be found online. Many of us, some without reflecting much on it, have been preparing for tomorrow for many weeks. The older I get, for me it’s really the time off work I treasure. It’s so rare, and more precious than gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Like many people, I associate Christmas with music. One of the songs—not really a Christmas carol—that has become seasonal by its inclusion on Pentatonix’s album That’s Christmas to Me, is “White Winter Hymnal.” The song is a cover of a haunting song by Fleet Foxes, a folk band, who included it on their debut album, the eponymous Fleet Foxes. If you’re not familiar with it you can find it here, along with the official video. The claymation short portrays a group of old men outdoors watching time pass. One of them begins to crank a drive that makes them younger as time reverses. When he reaches that point (please forgive the sexist language) “when a man becomes a boy once again” (from another winter song), he releases the handle and the men rapidly reach the age they were when the song began. Time is the greatest gift.
As the decades press on, their weight increases. Dreams of what, as a young man, I hoped to accomplish slip away facing the grinding reality of capitalism. The need to have money to spend for Christmas presents. And food and shelter. But mostly books. Writing takes time. Writing well takes a tremendous amount of time. Time for reading, reflecting, and even listening to music. Christmas Eve is all about waiting. We hope for a quiet, if cold, tomorrow when maybe the phone and email will cease to solicit money and time, if only for a day. I have to remind myself that not everyone recognizes Christmas. For some it’s simply the season to make money. I, weak as I am, cannot imagine life without it. And so I watch the skies, eagerly straining my eyes for the light.