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Santa Claus, Grandpa Frost, Father Christmas, or baby Jesus? No matter if one expects one or another, or none of them, there is to way to escape Christmas. Totally occupying our space for at least six weeks of the year. Carpet bombing. Advertising, offers, book presentations, company sauerkraut-soup eatings, shopping craze and above it all the raised eyebrows of preachers moralising over a damn Lego kit that we have missed the point of Christmas and have fallen for consumerism. No wonder there are some who escape to the warm countries like migratory birds, and spend Christmas as pilgrims from the highly developed cultural cathedral of the “Christian” West in an oasis of the East.
However, most of us remain. We have our traditions. Despite the occasional shoot-outs in the ongoing cultural war over the meaning of Christmas, from time to time we can come up with something rewarding and enriching. We need it. We long for being close to those who make our souls shiver just by smile. Good words and inspiring thoughts are simply bonuses that will strengthen us and moves forward to survive in the desert of everyday life, which is usually reduced to performance and reward. What to do to avoid losing this dimension of Christmas in the changing times?
Christmas is above all a story that has the power to transform. The story needs a narrator, and the storyteller needs a listener. Although the story remains, storytellers and audience change. For the story, although unchangeable, not to lose the power to transform, in its essence it is like a Christmas child, helpless and reliant on its narrator. A narrator can make the child live for the listeners to make them change by the force of the child’s life. However, the narrator can also kill the child and capture the petrified listeners. It depends on the language, the tone, the choice of metaphors and symbols. The story remains yet is changing. It gets dressed in the contemporary clothes to be in a form recognisable and comprehensible, to be able to change those who receive it, and those who bring it.
Now I will try to detail a few of such guises of Christmas which have helped me understand for years the story as an old, unchanging, and yet ever enriching story. At Christmas, I always like to let the song “Driving Home For Christmas” play loud in the car on my way home. More recently, the Midnight Song by Neckář has become one of my favourite Christmas songs, too. Listen to these songs if you have a moment of your time.
Coming home – that is what is inseparably associated with Christmas. I think that the desire to be at home at Christmas reflects our essential desire to belong somewhere and to someone. We struggle for our home. We protect it. We secure it within our means. It is an anchor in the darkness of uncertainty. Yet for home to be what it should be at Christmas, it is not enough just to come home. Paradoxically, the biblical Christmas story is not about the way home. On the contrary. Joseph and Mary are on their way from their home. They are left with stranger in a moment they are in need of protection of home. And then it continues. From Bethlehem, they do not run home. That would be dangerous for their child, for them. They flee to a foreign country. Baby Jesus, despite having set off for a journey home, to his own people, by being born in Bethlehem, he ended up as an outcast on the cross. Interesting, isn’t it? How come that in the context of this story, Christmas has become the holidays of home? I think we know it, we feel it. For our home to become a safe anchor and fulfil the task of an atmosphere protecting us from anything which hurts us in our lives, we have to travel. Take a step from us to others. To move from the positions in which we feel safe in our selfishness, and be embraced with love and helplessness in the arms of those we trust. The way home for Christmas, this is the path where it is worth leaving our own strength which we rely on; to give up the money which gives us a feeling of security; to overcome the distance from others which gives us gravitas; to relieve anger which we believe can justly punish those who hurt us; … and all of you may add whatever prevents you from feeling the love and closeness of those you love. Embark on a journey. Hit the road.
At Christmas, I enjoy the song by Janko Kuric. He sings in a brilliant way about the detours in our thoughts which always ultimately lead us home for Christmas. We are doing everything possible to make our homes kinder, more welcoming. We clean up, decorate, cook, bake, exchange gifts, but above all, we are together with the loved ones. Home ceases to be a specific address our residence, A home can be any place we can transform through the quality of our relationships