I lived in Germany for a year in my late 20's. I had finished Naturopathic School, and thought I was to be married to the love of my life. My beloved was a sociopath, who was the love of many women's lives, with fiancees in many cities across the nation. When I found this out, I broke off the engagement and fled to a job in Germany for a year, nursing a broken heart but taking in the sights and sounds of Central Europe during a transitional time in history.
When I came back to the states, it was during the "Holiday Season." I got a job in retail, and immediately involved myself in the hustle and bustle of Church, Family and Friends. It was one of the most difficult Christmases of my life. I left the relatively quiet and reserved observance of Christmas in Europe, after a year of soaking in the great Cathedrals and magnificent music that was offered weekly in various Munich churches, to the incessant blaring of Santa songs and twinkling consumerism of 1990's holiday gluttony. My nervous system reeled with the assault, and I underwent a crisis of faith.
For respite, I attended a silent Advent retreat at a local spiritual center. During a Direction meeting with a presenter, I shared my dismay over the blaring hysteria around me. What did all of this rush to buy and eat have to do with the event in Bethlehem?
A yearly whine that seems to occupy conservative punditry on the air and cable networks is the so called War on Christmas. Debates ensue each December over the ability to have nativity scenes in public places, and what sort of greeting should be given shoppers as they storm discount stores in the middle of the night. Apparently these external practices and displays are the most important thing, and inhibiting them will thwart the Christ impulse amongst humanity. But I have felt for many years that the commercialization, the materialization of Christmas has done the greatest damage of all. A recent study by the Pew Research Center indicates that a large percentage of Americans celebrate Christmas but do not believe in the Christ.
Depression is common during this season. But I feel the depression comes from not being able to meet the consumeristic fantasy. The "true spirit of Christmas" the commercials tell us we should feel if only we would buy more stuff is a hollow lie. The true spirit of the season is recognizing the divinity that is within our souls, that Divinity came to us, to set us free from the confines of our minds. We are part of a vast community that is connected with love.
These past few years with the loss of so much in my life, my Christmases have actually gotten better. With no externals to distract, no gifts to be given or gatherings to attend, my focus has been more directed towards the festival itself. While I enjoyed family and friends, the bustle of the holidays past, what I long for most these days is the warmth of the darkness where love shines it's brightest. I long to be alone with God.
These long dark cold nights of Advent and the Holy Nights are where I can feel the Divine most vividly. I long to dream dreams, to immerse myself in the mystery of God coming to us, to be one of us, to live amongst us, to go through a human life, human trials, human death, to better understand and love us. When you look at all the effort to orchestrate the Birth of the Christ, for me it says how much we are cared for, and what the spiritual world thinks we are capable.
The externals of my life are heart breaking, but the hope of Christmas, of a silent simple Christmas I eagerly anticipate. The veil between the worlds is very thin this time of year, and I savor every second, where I feel the presence of the Divine acutely. Somehow, this desire for everyone to feel this presence, this peace and hope, just can not be put into a simple phrase or a decoration. But I hope you all experience this rich envelopment of Divinity during these last few days of December.