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Echoes of Reality

Wondering about Christmas, are you?  Then you are not alone.  More and more people are finding themselves questioning this affair, and for some it almost feels like their second nature.  We wonder why our efforts to find peace and goodwill are lost in the struggles of the hustle and bustle each year.  We seek answers to ease those unsettling conflicts stirring inside knowing that what its supposed to be and what it has become are not the the same.  We fight an endless tug of war trying to grasp perspective on the situation, wondering why it can't be perfect.  Christmas is a battleground where millions of souls are finding themselves trapped in opposition, and we just can't win the fight against this uprising breed of materialistic warriors.

A lot of questions baffle our minds during the holiday.  We wonder what size tree to get, what presents to buy, how much to spend, who to share it with, and the list goes on.  But what about truth?  Have you ever seriously wondered about that?  Most people rarely have, and though it may seem easier to program our minds on falsehood than face what dwells behind the mask, nonetheless, conditioning ourselves for the season is becoming quite a chore as it gets harder and harder to fight its monstrous influence, causing many to end up feeling helplessly defeated.

Should Christmas be a wonderful fantasy, like most people believe?  A fairy tale that Christians and non-Christians together can look forward to having a fun, loving, happy time filled with a hope of finding some mutual ground to stand on.  Should it be a time of the year where wishes and dreams are fulfilled, a long awaited for yearning of excitement and special surprises?  Then why are the numbers escalating for those who are finding Christmas a time they dread - a fairy tale that has faded - a fantasy that continues to dim?

Isn't it time to forget the fantasy and move into the realm of reality?  Look at the growing attitude of those who celebrate Christmas lavishly.  They have made it a season of party time and their efforts have managed to carry the celebration beyond the purpose of its intent: Christ's birth.  Despite the many endless efforts to keep the wonderful, simple image intact, it no doubt continues to overwhelmingly drift out of control.  Yet we continue to cling ever more tightly to the excuses that allow us to overlook the darkness while we focus on the little bit of light that still remains to shine.  The only thing is, these excuses are providing less and less release from the pressures, the confusion, and the increasing expectation that grows worse every year throughout every new generation.

There are many dark intruders echoing through the season unmasking the elements of unpleasantness.  Maybe the time has come to tell why people are beginning to feel that their once eager motivations to hand the Christmas tradition down, now means hard labor to carry on.  After all, this is not the way it's supposed to be - or is it?

The disturbing reality of why there is so much greed, so much spiritual corruption, so much poverty and sadness surrounding this affair, is simple yet complicated.  The only way we will ever be able to understand Christmas is by dealing with it.  And at this point, hasn't it become impossible to ignore?

Where a mask has formed around truth, the quest to promote stronger emotional attachment to Christmas has taken its shape.  This quest has had one of the greatest hold on mankind throughout history.  From childhood to adulthood the spirit has romanced us into love.  Through innocent pretense, curious wonder and delight, this seed of love grows to maturity where one day Christmas becomes our lifelong established commitment.  We are spiritually charmed into making Christmas our dutiful responsibility.

The idea is to let children dream dreams of whatever they desire, an encouragement that is like sunshine to their wishful hearts.  With a sincere promise they are told to be good so Santa will be good to them.  How true it is that our smoothing lies must mend their broken hearts for not every wishful dream materializes under the tree.  Their unfulfilled hopes must be replaced with great amounts of affection depending on love to make everything all right.

This cycle repeats itself over and over, as it has for many centuries.  Children faithfully follow in the steps of their parents where they, too, become devoted human beings to the spirit.  The humdrum life is obediently swept to the wayside, clinging wholeheartedly to our well-deserved moment of glorious fantasy.  It's a time for glitter, glamour, and gaiety everywhere, but not without the hope of gathering loved ones together to recapture a glimpse of closeness before time itself sweeps us away.

Unfortunately, Christmas has become a burden for countless souls, most especially for those who cannot afford the price they will have to pay.  Anguish greets those who are alienated from loved ones or mourn the loss of someone dear they can no longer share this sentimental moment with.  What is a joyous time for many is a painful disappointment for others because times keep changing, the family image keeps changing, and Christmas keeps changing from what it is supposed to be.

Despite this sad reality, Christians continue to share a special bond during the Christmas season.  The meaning of Christmas represents taking part in what they truly believe: the birth of a newborn King.  They perceive Christmas as the perfect opportunity to symbolize holding hands with the world, a time to unite in harmony with mankind. 

The response from the world has been receptive and the Christmas spirit has spread into every walk of life.  The result of this spiritual effort has caused Christmas to grow bigger becoming very much self-consumed.  No matter how hard one tries to get ahead of it, Christmas gets a hold of them.

There is no denying that Christmas has come to mean many things to many people in many different ways.  Finding new ways to welcome its arrival, thus making it a peaceful undertaking, is what seems to be draining our souls.  New ideas are constantly being sought to make this time a rewarding experience, yet, the finest reward comes when it is all over.  Inch by inch Christmas grows darker becoming a season of exhaustion, and finding the perfect way to pass through it has become one of our major focuses.

The desire to recapture and keep the image of "good old-fashioned simplicity” in sight, is slipping ever more into a distant memory as the endless search for new (or even old) perspectives continue.

We hear the familiar slogan, "Slow It Down" protested each year.  Evidence that proves we need to deal with this increasingly out-of-control situation.  The disturbing reality of it is that all the efforts to slow things down have been nothing but one unavailing challenge after another.  They have not provided any real solution to the problem  We must face the truth that there is no slowing Christmas down and wake up to the fact the worst of it is still ahead.

The echoes of discontentment began long ago.  Once suppressed, they are now turning into heated frustrations.  The time has arrived where an unnerving disposition is creeping to an ultimate explosion.  People are becoming aware that by trying to keep a faithful devotion toward Christmas feels more like an act of slavery.  The overburdened expectations to serve it with all their heart, all their soul, all the gusto they can squeeze out of their pocketbook, while trying to retain some sense of joy in it, too, is a difficult feat to achieve.

Each year we hear the lips of mockery abound.  From out the mouths of the discontented (no doubt a grumble or two from our own) a strong confirmation is warning us of how unsettled feelings are causing a great concern.  As the crowds grow unbearable, the pressures unendurable, the hype unrealistic, our virtue of patience grows dimmer.  Around the world depression swells, magnified by the carefree joy that the world portrays.  Our homeless and starvation problems continue to increase while we continue to feast abundantly, fulfilling our own meaningful self-purpose in it all.  Even Santa, who sits year after year upon his throne herding the little lambs, has his own underhanded motive in mind.

The echoes of discontentment will grow louder.  The sordid effects enveloping our world will continue to increase as long as we continue to make excuses in hopes of the situation improving.  These crucial effects are causing an inner deterioration spinning a nasty web around us all.  A web that is ready and waiting to snatch people at the moment of conception, like a luring grasp prepared to stake its claim in every human heart.

Christmas may begin with the innocence of a child's heart, but eventually that innocence surpasses the magical fairy tale stage, manifesting itself into the obsession of a wanton spirit.  It restlessly evolves into a demanding spirit that is seldom, if ever, satisfied with our once overly emphasized notion that "It's the thought that counts" (which many faithfully enhance in their child's mind while they humbly play the hypocrite).

On a worldwide scale this thoughtful notion is becoming less meaningful as one's own selfish calculations become priority.  It is now the desire that counts, the price that counts, or impressing others that counts.  What a frightful reflection of Christmas's destiny as generation after generation faithfully hands down a way of life they have come to know. The image we now cling to from our past will someday be a myth in the eyes of the future.

Many people work hard all year long in an attempt to store up treasure for this weighty occasion.  They place a value on gifts to loved ones with a very serious motive.  Gifts measure their love as well as prove the unceasing of  their sacrifice.  Gifts mark the very depth of one's devotion.  Millions of faithful supporters believe that this event is the only endearing opportunity to give of themselves, so it should be done up right because it only comes around once a year (a motto our ears are quite accustomed to hearing).

Showing devotions of love at Christmas is on the priority list of most people.  They find themselves ever more determined to give the best, the biggest, and the most at this time leaving many to slip into debt a little bit more each year.  With so many sides to each family, and a friend here or there, people are finding it's not a matter of saving up for Christmas any longer, rather is has become a matter of paying off the year before.

The sorrowful reality is that the more extravagant Christmas becomes the more guilt overshadows our luxury of warmth and good cheer.  We see the faces of the less fortunate in the world flash across the news revealing where our attention should be, but too many regretfully turn their heads.  We can't bear to see people starving to death, but after Christmas has drained us mentally, physically, spiritually, and financially, there is little if anything, left to give.  Perhaps a morsel of care here and there is about all most people can muster up and that, along with the guilt, has become a shameful fact of life.

This fact of life, among the other harsh realities soon to be discovered, does not paint the beautiful picture of Christmas we have always imagined it should be.  It has grown out of context into a massive material mania, a destructive force paving its own set of values and beliefs.  We don't have to look too close to see Christmas taking a certain direction of its own.

Everywhere we look there are signs, bumper stickers, buttons and banners expressing "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," but is Jesus the reason or the excuse?  We hear people saying the best is yet to come but in the end what arrives are the bills pouring in, the savings account pouring out, and the outstanding debts hovering above their heads.  Some have been forced into making the big decision.  They must slightly lower their expectations and try a bit hard to savor their thoughtful approach.  Others been forced into bankruptcy, financial counseling, or metal therapy.  There are those, however, who have decided the easiest way is to forget the whole thing through drugs or alcohol.

These are the painful results that the desires of this season joyfully encourage.  They are the consequences mankind has come to pay.  So where is the peace in participating in ways that blindly wrap our ignorance in fancy boxes, slipping them under the garland tree with Santa's name engraved upon them?  If one were compelled to find the answer to this (long overdue) question they would discover exactly what Christmas is all about.  Then perhaps we can begin to find ways to deal with this worldly and consuming tradition of ours.

All the shallow lyrics in the world cannot continue to mask those aching, sentimental hearts and wishful, eager ears forever.  Nor can all the glitter and glamour in the world continue to blind our eyes from the harsh realities of this season.  All the beautifully wrapped gifts in the world cannot buy love, acceptance, and approval.  So why have these things become important?  Why are they the very conditions revolving around this affair?  Perhaps they are just a camouflage hiding our predicament while the forces of darkness gain more power to take down more souls.

Christmas, nonetheless, is a never-ending challenge.  Take all the alternatives offered to us each year, for example.  People want to make Christmas a pleasant, more rewarding experience.  The only thing is these alternatives don't seem to have any lasting effect - they don’t seem to be working as well as they used to.  Magazines, books, newspapers, and special programs fill us with many creative ideas to try, with a hope of making Christmas a time we leave behind with a feeling of contentment; a special sentimental memory that will fill our hearts with a yearning to return again.

The never-ending effort to support Christmas has been the main supply of this spirit's energy.  The spirit of Christmas depends on us to rekindle a new hope for a better one so we will carry it through year after year after year, and so far we haven't let it down.

One of the biggest reasons Christmas continues to succeed, despite the many iniquities, is for the sake of those few good things that miraculously come out at this time.  We are constantly reminded that we should never give up hope on the Christmas spirit.  To give up hope on Christmas is compared to giving up hope on life.  God, however, cannot limit His miraculous works to man-made opportunities.  Life-giving needs are an everyday occurrence and must be fulfilled.  Christmas has managed to direct our thinking towards hold back; a thinking process that is robbing life outright of its day to day basic essentials.

There are those who truly desire to give food, money, or clothing to the needy but they have come to an awareness that if they wait until Christmas then their generosity will count.  Necessitates that one might need (often hidden a closet) are held back until the time arrives when it will arouse a lasting remembrance.  And what about that magnetic spark of unity set ablaze between God and mankind?  In many respects it proves what can be done.  Yet it quickly fades away when the bright lights do down, leaving us bewildered as to where it has gone?

Christmas is a powerful spell that swoops in, captivates us, and lures our whole being into another world.  Mankind pats itself on the back for what was accomplished, sweeps what wasn’t into the hope chest of tomorrow, tucks the woes and joys in the scrap books of yesterday, and goes on with life plotting the next one.  In the end, the spirit will accomplish the task it set out to complete.

As we begin to look at the image it has already formed we shall see how far it has drifted from the image of our storybooks.  We shall see how it is forming an image more shaded around our greatest fears.

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Copyright 1990 / ISBN: 0-533-08812-7 / Library of Congress Catalog Card No : 89-90466 (Out-Of-Print