Christmas 2016: O’ Come All Ye Cynical


I’m writing this just after returning home from church on Christmas Eve. To be precise, it’s 12:34am December 25. What makes this super-weird is that I’m sitting on my stoop while I’m writing. In December. In a Chicago suburb. It’s not exactly balmy—although 36 degrees after last week’s –0 temperatures is downright tropical to us Midwesterners.

I simply felt compelled to sit outside tonight. So I decided to go with my impulse—something I don’t normally do, unless it’s chocolate-related. But I felt an overpowering need to be outside tonight—on Christmas Eve. In the silence of the late night.

I’ve struggled with Christmas these past few years. I couldn’t quite connect to the feelings of joy and celebration that everyone around me seemed to experience so effortlessly. I wasn’t particularly sad or even hostile toward Christmas. I simply felt indifferent. That “meh” made me sad, though.

One of my clients was trying to describe her struggles to connect with her family and friends. “I’m like a hamster in one of those clear plastic balls. I can roll up to people. See them. Hear them. But I can’t quite connect to them. I’m there but not engaged.”

That’s how I felt about Christmas. I baked, shopped, wrapped gifts, visited—but I was the hamster in the clear plastic ball.

But this year was different—and I owe it all to Santa Buddies. Don’t ask me for this movie’s plot summary. All I can tell you is that it takes place at Christmas and there are puppies. And it ran incessantly on ABC Family. It is super corny, and really not a good movie. But it hooked me and punched an air hole in my clear plastic ball.

Our pastor’s sermon helped clarify how my clear plastic armor was breached. Like any self-respecting pastor from a church on the North Side of Chicago invested in keeping her job (Hi Pastor Erin!), she talked about the Cubs. Specifically about the song “Go, Cubs, Go!” She noted its corniness—how it’s kind of silly even. But she observed that even the most cynical Chicagoan tapped his or her toe and hummed. Before we knew it, even us White Sox fans were singing along. (Just not very loudly because we are petty and bitter. OK—not really.)

Santa Buddies did this for me and Christmas. This goes to show how fragile our armor can be. Unintentionally, we create defenses for ourselves—clear plastic balls, for example. But we still yearn for connection and relationship. Our capacity for love and joy cannot be held back. And something as ooey-gooey sweet as Santa Buddies can begin to chip away at our shells before we can say “Really? This is what we’re watching? Isn’t there a ‘Law & Order’ marathon on somewhere?”

So I blubbered my way through “Silent Night.” Felt giddy filling the dog’s stocking. (We got him an ugly sweater!) And I am actually looking forward to the rest of the day.

So I hope you find your version of Santa Buddies. (But not Santa Buddies. Did I mention that it is not a good movie?) May this holiday season and end of 2016 create chinks in your armor so that your light can brighten the world, and love and hope can find their way into your heart.

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