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by W. Mahlon Purdin


I would really like to write about
Christmas and what seems to have come
Of that holiday, once pastoral and quiet,
Now boisterous and commercialized;
Now full of phony Santas that
Get arrested, get drunk,
Carry revolvers and paper bags with
Wet tops from thirsty lips.
What happened to all those families
That came from everywhere
With poinsettias and presents from the heart,
Gifts that didn't enslave but enraptured
The heart with humanism and hope
And a feeling of thanks for small reprieves
From the brutal clarity of life?
What changed those young eyes
Filled with wonder of mysterious things
To greedy eyes, comparing eyes,
Eyes that twitch and dodge?
What happened to change the spirit
Of parties from camaraderie to carousals
Of drunkenness and avarice,
To where bosses say, "No parties,"
And people just seethe with anger?


I remember a sense of Christmas,
And searching of my behavior
In the light of love.
Did I mistreat you sometime?
The love that welled up
Made me feel inadequate
Made me promise not to take for granted
My family and those around me.
Now it's been speeded up and
Everybody rushes to shopping centers
Spends, spends, spends like crazy
Just finishing in time to bestow
And to be bestowed upon.


And everybody's nervous.
Everybody's edgy with the pressure.
If Jesus did exist,
Let alone was the Son of God,
He never meant that his birthday
Be a crossfire exchange of material
From everyone to everyone.
What was to be exchanged
I think
Were emotions felt by human beings --
Lost and wandering on a small planet
Drifting through the void, through the abyss --
For each other.


It's not a time to forget all the problems
We've caused for each other and have a drink.
It's a time to say what's
On our minds
And then build on that.
Christmas is not a truce in the fighting.
It's a celebration
Of a beginning.


Then you come to the moment
That everyone is rushing towards
And when they get there, are scared
To look, to feel, to care, and scared to love.
What in the world is this anyway?
We are all brothers and sisters –
All love one another –
Why all the fuss?
Why don't we just break down the barriers,
Join hands and sing awhile?
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Oh, jingle all the way ..."


"The last Christmas I believed in Santa Claus,"
She said, "was two years ago, and I know
I heard bells!" That a chained tire,
When it hits hard pavement
Sounds like bells to a little girl
Half asleep in her room
Two stories up, is simply wonderful.
It's two years now
That tire chains sound no bells.


"Since we're not having dinner,
No Christmas dinner, can you imagine that!
Well, since there's no dinner
We can't open presents tonight.
We have to open them on Christmas
Morning or Christmas will be nothing,
A nonentity."
What else is there than
Presents and food, after all?
Is there hope? Is there charity?
Will there be peace on Earth?
Let's all hope so.


On the other hand,
I've also seen a turning away
With the non-celebration of Christmas.
When it's as if in the heart
None who have ever loved that spirit
Can ever forget or wish not to be a part,
And participate,
Be gentle
Be patient
Be kind
Give freely of yourself.


Then it's over. Who is Santa Claus anyway?
Who brings all these turtleneck sweaters,
Ski boots, radios, books, cooking gear,
Lunch boxes, peanuts, chapsticks, rings,
Perfume, spice racks, shavers, cameras,
Crock pots, exercise devices and albums
For pictures taken during all the hustle
With people smiling, some worried,
Children with their eyes flitting and flattering.
I saw eighty-four-year-old tears today
From the eyes of a woman filled with inadequacies
And doubts of her own worthiness ...
I was fighting greedy thoughts before the tree
As presents came to everyone and to me.
Now, the sounds of wrapping paper filling
Wastebaskets beautifully, and boxes
Being collapsed and stacked:
Waiting in closets like skeletons
For next year. "Next year," she said,
"We'll start earlier."


Nearly out of breath we recede
Like melting snow on a wild evergreen
Back to Earth, back to work,
Back to troubles, back to bosses,
Back to doubts and back to ourselves,
Our lives, our lies.
Back to normal, the post-Christmas world
Seems to spin, still twenty-three degrees off,
Seems to be as full of life and life's trials
As ever, as always, as before.
The politicians are as tricky,
Society is as sporadic,
Friends are as steady ...
I wonder if anything has changed,
Perhaps this is the best world possible,
Perhaps not.
Nothing shakes the premise
That life is still mysterious and whatever
We make of it. Whether God sends
Armageddon, or Mars sends missiles,
Life goes on 'til it's over;
It's not what happens,
It's what we think about it.
Christmas is an attitude, an leap of faith,
And nothing less.

-- December 25, 1975
Merry Christmas


Posted on 12/14/2005
Copyright © 2023 W. Mahlon Purdin

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