It was the night before Christmas and my family was asleep, the children were all snug in their beds while visions of new digital games danced in their heads. Just as I was drifting off to sleep there arose a tremendous clatter. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Our alarm siren had gone off. It was ear-splitting. Strobe lights flashed blindingly. Pistol in hand, I arose from my bed and flew – or stumbled – to the window to see what was the matter. The alarm panel was flashing an ominous message. “Living Room Motion Detector. Intruder in the house!” Sheriff’s vehicles began arriving. By the light of the bright moon I watched burly SWAT teams, helmeted, armed, and armored approach the house.
Only moments later, the perp was face down on the lawn, cuffed and shackled. He was dressed all in red with fur cuffs and a floppy red hat. He was short, kind of like me, had a full beard, a round face and a big belly. Obviously he wasn’t a regular at the local fitness center. Also kind of like me. Most incriminating was a large bag he’d been carrying filled with gaily wrapped packages. He’d obviously been stealing presents from under our tree!
He had no ID but loudly proclaimed he was Santa Claus from the North Pole. Right. That went over not at all. “Do you go by any other aliases?” The suspect said yes, “Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, and a few others.” “Well, you sure ain’t from around here, so you’re comin’ with us,” the deputies announced, hauling him to his feet. Thanks goodness for alarm systems and committed law enforcement officers, I thought.
Then suddenly my room filled with light and I felt myself being poked and prodded. There were no sirens, no strobes, no yelling, no fat red-clad burglar. Just my wife pounding on me. “Wake up! Wake up! You’ve been having a nightmare.”
I was in my bedroom, the kids were still asleep, and it was still Christmas Eve. The presents were still under the tree. All was well. But before I went back to bed I turned off the alarm system and put a plate of cookies and a glass of milk by our Christmas tree. Can’t be too careful you know.
No, none of this really happened, but I sure had fun writing it.
In my actual experience Christmas has always been a special time. Quiet, peaceful, and wonderful. A time of love, compassion, and understanding.
For me, Christmas is a complex blend of ancient pagan beliefs and Christian dogma. Holly for luck and divine blessings, mistletoe for kisses, lighted evergreen trees symbolizing eternal life. Tinsel and sleigh bells, Santa and elves, Yule logs, turkey and dressing, all blend into our hybrid holiday season.
As a child, just before bedtime, my father would put Dickens’ Christmas Carol featuring Basil Rathbone, on the record player, and by the flickering light from our fireplace I listened with terror as Jacob Marley’s ghost visited Scrooge, along with the wraiths of Christmas past, present, and yet to come.
My father then read from the Bible the story of Christ’s birth, and His sparkling star. From both Scrooge, and the Bible, the message of peace and divine love was clear.
Christmas for me is a complex melding of intellect and emotion. But, the true meaning of the season is far simpler. In “Peanuts,” Charlie Brown, frustrated and depressed, wondered, “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus responds quietly to him. “Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell what Christmas is all about” and he recites Luke 2:8-14.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
“That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”
I can only say Amen to Linus and wish you all a peaceful, blessed, quiet, introspective, and sacred Christmas. May “peace on earth; good will toward men” become a living reality here, and around the world.
Dr. Risk is a professor emeritus in the College of Forestry and Agriculture at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Content © Paul H. Risk, Ph.D. All rights reserved, except where otherwise noted. Click firstname.lastname@example.org to send questions, comments, or request permission for use.