Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

December 20, 2004

The Sense of a Giver

I suppose I've disentangled myself from much that we call Christmas here in America. I don't send cards, don't buy many presents. Call me Ebenezer Scrooge, I guess. Somehow what was once a day has become a "season." That special feeling, that "spirit of Christmas," is coaxed into being by fancy advertising back around Thanksgiving. The "season" of Christmas, in other words, just happens to coincide with the buying patterns of Christmas shoppers.

Me, I'm kind of interested in "keeping" Christmas by stripping it back to its essentials. While there are certainly many fine things about the secular Christmas that dominates our culture every December--such as family, love, charity--but doesn't it always feel somewhat ginned up? And isn't it often, for many, nothing more than a riot of excess, ending in dissipation?

I hope this doesn't sound mean and small of me, but I want Christmas to be only a day again, not an artificially elongated "season." When I was a child I learned to look forward to an unusual "sensation" that I would feel while lying in bed on the night of Christmas Eve. This was not merely the excited expectation of gifts, at least I don't think so. No, I learned to expect a strange and pleasant feeling as of the presence of vastness--such as one might feel, I suppose, standing at the side of the Grand Canyon, or under the dome of St. Peter's. It was lovely and awesome, and it always seemed a kind visitation or gift--associated with a giver, in other words. This "giver" I presumed to be Santa Claus himself, whom I believed in strenuously--precisely because of this "feeling" of mine--long after other kids had grown knowing and cynical.

That, for me, is something very close to the "spirit" of Christmas. I would call it now, "the sense of a Giver." Christmas is not Christmas without the sense that it comes down to us, along with all good things, from the Father of Lights.


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