My favorite Christmas story is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s not Christmas for me until I see some version of that story every year. This year, it occurred to me that I haven’t looked back on my Christmas past for at least a decade, maybe more. Christmas is apparently one of the few things in my life that I experience completely in the present moment. Christmas is completely defined by the mood I’m in during the few weeks of the current Christmas season.
For some reason, this year I found myself completely immersed in my Christmases past, as though the Ghost of Christmas past had surreptitiously invaded my mind. I remembered my Christmases the first few years after I moved to Greensboro. Christmas eve would begin with me passing out Christmas Bonuses after closing my office a half day early and my staff and I eating whatever cakes, pies and popcorn the offices of the specialists we referred to had gifted us. Drunken driving laws were extremely lax and seldom enforced and carried relatively minor fines when they were enforced. As a result, no one worried much about excessive drinking and all the most successful medical, dental and legal practices in town had office parties, and I made my rounds to almost all of them. The alcohol flowed like water and it seemed like all of the most beautiful women in Greensboro attended the parties.
I remember I always had at least two or three offers of intimacy from two or three of the slightly inebriated beauties at those parties, but I couldn’t even be tempted. The thought of it only made me more eager to get home to my beautiful wife Yvonne (rest in peace). In my eyes, as beautiful as they were, the women at those parties weren’t even in the same league as my wife. When I got home, my two little children were waiting for me, with their little pajamas with the feet in them on, all bright eyed with excitement, anxious to tell me that Santa Clause was coming. So after a few minutes of greeting me, Yvonne would put them to bed, and Yvonne began the task of wrapping their presents while I attempted to put together bicycles and doll houses.
I always had to get help from my good friend John (rest in peace) who could repair or build anything. He would assemble in ten minutes what I had struggled with for an hour without success. Once he finished, the three of us would spend the next hour drinking, laughing and talking before John went home to be with his own wife and two little daughters.
Yvonne and I would usually get to bed exhausted by around 4 AM. It seemed like we just dozed off before we would hear two little voices shouting, “Mommy, Daddy, come quick! Santa Clause came last night”. Then Yvonne and I would drag ourselves out of bed, with me half hung over, and pretend it was all news to us.
What’s different about those times was the pervasive sense of optimism by everyone in town. No matter our race, creed, color or political persuasion, there was a feeling that we all were headed for the same utopian destination. We accepted there would be rough spots along the way, but we were sure that justice and fairness would accompany us for the ride.
This Christmas feels very different. This year I’ve been dreading the approach of 2022. There’s this feeling that the day of reckoning for all our expressed anger, ignorance and stupidity over the past decade is waiting for us in 2022. We seemed to be poised to go to war with ourselves and turn America into a living hell. I sense that most of us feel this way but we choose to bury our heads in the sand in hopes that the danger will pass without incident.
I supposed there’s a Christmas future but I can’t bear to look at it or even think about it because unlike Scrooge, I feel powerless to change it by myself. The future that awaits us can only be avoided if all of us commit to following Christ’s one and only commandment – that we love one another the way he loved us. There’s no sense talking specifics about what we must do to change our destiny because we all know what’s right. The question is, will we be brave and bold enough to do what we know is right or allow our fears to keep us on our current path.
I know there’s nothing I can do as an individual to avert the coming catastrophe but I have made the commitment myself to following Christ’s commandment. I just hope by some miracle most of the rest of us decide to get on board with it too. I don’t believe Christ came to Earth to save sinners from the wrath of God, but to save us from ourselves.