Whew. Made it through the holidays … like a marathoner at the finish line, or a woman after having given birth: "Made it through." It's funny how we are about "the holidays"—we build up the anticipation, then when they finally arrive, we can't wait to get back to normal. And this doesn't only apply to Christmas! Think of March Break and our summer vacations. We seem to relish the thought of them, but the reality is something that leaves us longing for old times.
As a recovering nicotine addict (a nice way of saying ex-smoker)—even after more than a decade cigarette-free—I still crave a smoke. But it's not only the DuMaurier king size that calls out to me. It was all that went around smoking, the rituals of my addiction such as a coffee and a cigarette in the morning and smoke breaks with other smokers.
I think for a lot of us the "thought" or "idea" (nostalgia??) of the holidays is better than the reality. Because, to be honest, cigarettes taste terrible (they really do) but the addicted part of my brain convinces the repulsed part of my brain that the terrible taste is worth it. That's how addictions work.
Now, as a Christian cleric, I have a very specific understanding of the true meaning of "The holidays"—it begins with "J" and ends in "-esus." I get how "Christmas" is more of a societal than religious phenomenon. But for those of us who are Christian, if we can wean ourselves off of the various delights and addictions of our culture, we are literally offered "Christmas" 27/7/365! The intent of the Christian life is to manifest the life/love of Jesus every single ding-dong day in our lives! Now, I am pretty sure you are reading this with some mild scepticism as your eyes roll. It can sound trite and overly simplistic.So does quitting smoking.
… or "Just feel better" when you are clinically depressed.
… or "Just push your way from the table" when you are overweight.
Anything sounds easy … until you have to do it.
We have trouble "making it through the holidays" like those who aren't physically fit have trouble running a marathon. If you don't train and work at it, of course the process is going to be painful. And, while I don't have an endorsement deal with them, Nike's "Just do it" slogan is pretty appropriate right now. As is the old saying, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."
A number of years ago A.J. Jacobs—an editor at Esquire Magazine—challenged himself, as a non-observant Jew, to live a whole year according to the Torah (the Law) of Moses in the Bible. His book, A year of living biblically: One man's humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible, was the fruit of that exploration. And while the book is a great read, it is also about one person's determination to do meet a specific challenge.
So, I'm not about to suggest that you live every one of Jesus's stories, parables or commandments literally. Well, how about just one? How about we start getting ready for "Xmas 2019" by doing one of Jesus' commandments literally: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This is what's called "The Golden Rule" and I challenge you to live this rule literally and explicitly for the rest of 2019. You don't have to take an eye for an eye. You don't have to pluck out your eye if you happen to get a peek at something naughty.
(Wow a lot of eye things!)
No, I'm letting you off the hook. You can mix your fibres (Lev. 19:19), you can eat shellfish (Lev 11:12); you can even accumulate wealth (Mark 10:17-27). But what you can't do is treat your friends, family, neighbours, immigrants, homosexuals, Muslims, atheists, Baptists, Hindus, Barthians, Leaf fans any worse than you would want to be treated.
If you can do this one thing, this one little bitty thing, why I bet you'll be ready for the holidays. And not only will you get through them, you might actually enjoy them.