I'm glad the Little Drummer Boy’s drumming made little baby Jesus smile. Art > Material Goods (even kingly gifts!). That carol is Guthrie and Fugazi rolled into one.
The Who exclaimed “Did you ever see the faces of the children? They get so excited! Waking up on Christmas morning, hours before the winter sun's ignited. They believe in dreams and all they mean, including heaven's generosity.”
That was my brother and me. Except we were raised to believe heaven’s generosity is a human invention. That does not make the generosity any less generous, of course. Earthly generosity is empathetic. Johnny Cash cannot accuse me of being so heavenly minded, I'm no earthly good.
I'm an atheist in love with Christmas. Most everyone knew this already. Look at my posts prior to my candidacy for President, 2020. Before admissions and manifestos, I wrote odes to durable footwear, hip hop architecture, velocity, and secular songs. Nothing terribly spiritual (although my devotion to music and baseball is religious).*
But Jesus is cool. I was baptized Catholic... principally, I suspect, to appease my grandfather. His living room featured framed, modestly-sized illustrations of JFK and Pope John Paul II.** My grandfather was a Marine and CIA agent. He was a serious man. His shoes (which I was married in) are still polished and pristine. He was famously displeased to discover my mom reading Catcher in the Rye. He attended mass daily. I think it’s fair to call him conservative.*** Yet, his Christianity stemmed from lovingly charitable roots.
When Pope Francis addressed Congress last year, he used the occasion to celebrate four Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. I would add Steinbeck to round out a starting five and a couple Transcendentalists for the bench (Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" may prove to be a guidebook in the coming years). It’s a team of radicals fighting for the union, unions, country, civil rights, art, creatures great & small… basic equality.
All would take in pair of Arab refugees and their baby without hesitation.
So Merry Christmas! Joy to the world. To the tree and its pagan roots. To gift giving. To the bells. To Burl Ives. To Linus explaining what Christmas is really about (sure, the Kid was born in autumn and was 356 years old before December 25th became his birthday... he can still lay claim). To the girl who hummed Christmas Carols year-round. To George C. Scott as Uncle Scrooge. To the Ramones singing “Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight.” To The Power & the Glory's whiskey priest. To all a good night!
But also: Happy Holidays! Happy Hanukkah! There are a plethora of worthy wintertime celebrations. Christ has been a star of the season for only 1,660 or so years. Before that, this week belonged to a Roman celebration of the sun. Saturnalia! Before that, Hornus! Odin was the Yule Father! (Odin, humanity's coolest god ever... now a log. Don't let this happen to Christ, Christians.)
Yeah, our annual axial tilt is crowded with gods and spirits. The more the merrier. A secure Christian wouldn’t object.
* Religious architecture is, of course, sublime... even Baptist neon signs. The best, I think, are not the cathedrals of Europe or even the golden temples of Asia, but Prairie School meeting houses of Wright and his apprentices like Jones (photos below uncredited).
** Interestingly, Pope John Paul II possessed a more scientifically curious mind and a better comprehension of evolution than any current GOP elected official. (I'll figure out how to work that into a debate before 2020.)
*** Not "conservative" by today's standards, of course. His faith was personal and quiet. Genuine.
Post's Recommended Listening: Well, it's past Christmas and I mentioned Fugazi above, so let's forgo a carol and give Merchandise (the demo version) a listen. It's one of my all-time favorite songs and the true meaning of Christmas.
Added Bonus song: Richard Buckner's "Dogwood." Ridiculously perfect.