I’ve been contemplating the “traditional” greeting, “Merry Christmas and happy new year.” What exactly does that mean?
Merry means to be “cheerful and lively” or “slightly and good-humoredly drunk” (which probably describes this season for a number of people), and happy means to be contented. I wonder how many people actually live the blessing.
Christmas is often a time of great stress for many; trying to meet others’ expectations, having the perfectly decorated house, the perfect meal with all the special foods, the perfect gift which means running up the credit cards to afford it, and the family get-together, which can actually cause more damage to relationships then it solves. The expectations of good cheer are so high that anyone not able to reach them may feel even more miserable than they usually do, resulting in a statistically higher suicide rate over the Christmas holidays.
For those wanting a deeper meaning to Christmas, there is the winter solstice, the returning of light to the world, and there is the birth of a special baby bringing hope and peace to the world, or so the cards claim. But is that enough?
What is Christmas really? In western society, Christmas conjures up the image of a huge red-suited elf (drinking a carbonated beverage) riding in a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer. Occasionally the baby might be there, but ultimately the central figure of Christmas is Santa Claus, the semi-god of materialism encouraging everyone to want stuff rather than give stuff.
In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the three ghosts’ ultimate goal was to loosen up Scrooge’s pocketbook and have him start caring for the poor, the hungry, the sick — those who couldn’t look after themselves.
This is getting closer to the meaning of Christmas.
The baby to whom we pay occasional attention was more than just a beatific infant surrounded by hay and animals. He was, and is, the one and only lover of mankind and creator of universe. He is the very God incarnate who took flesh from a poor unknown Jewish girl, dwelt within her for nine months and was born into His creation in order to redeem it.
“Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, / And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! / Angels with shepherds glorify Him! / The wise men journey with a star! / Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!” (“The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ”)
Christmas is a universal pivotal event wrapped up in the body of a tiny child. Love became flesh and lived in creation, and by living in Him, each of us can truly love every single person in the world.
From the time of His birth, Jesus was hated by the selfish who wanted to destroy Him, by those who wielded power without love for others.
Let us not do likewise. Be full of life and a little drunk on God’s love, always be contented helping others however you can.
Merry Christmas and happy new year!