I was in church this evening and it gave me some time for reflection. It wasn’t anything particularly profound, merely some thoughts on the way things were and they way they are now.
I’m not a big church goer, but I do try from time to time, because it makes my parents and grandmother happy. And I’ve found, particularly on major holidays, that I miss the traditional services of my childhood. This is funny, because as a child I felt like the traditions could use a good shaking.
Now that I’m grown however…well, things change. I get more out of the quiet meditation that comes from ritual and rote than I do from religious enthusiasm and change.
Christmas, in particular, is one service that I wish had not been altered. Even as a kid, I felt that it was one time in an otherwise stressful day (all that waiting) where there was a moment of peace. You knew what was going to happen. Dressing up was a requirement. Etiquette was formal and there were some holidays that I could have put a princess to shame. (Well, up to a point.) Everyone sang their best, looked their best, and tried their best to pay attention. The service was always ritualized and always a touch Gothic. Christmas Eve was an effort and an exercise in patience and it’s reward was a moment of serenity in a holiday all about excitement.
But now…well, we no longer follow the book. I’m squeezed between two people who cannot sing on the best of days and I’m shoved up in the front of the church on an excessively padded bench. There’s more activity and less opportunity for reflection. I remember thinking, “How can anyone think with all this noise going on?”
I suppose it’s the same in a secular sense too. I’m not really excited about Christmas. The gifts I’m giving are nothing to brag about, there’s nothing on my list I’m hoping to see under the tree. Over the years I’ve backed off on the Christmas movies and specials and my attitude toward Christmas music has cooled extensively. I’ve gotten less and less time off, so I have more and more distractions from the excitement. And the more I’ve gotten involved with making Christmas morning more magical (stuffed stockings, new presents under the tree, cookies laid out on a plate, that sort of thing), the less it’s felt that way for me.
I realize this is all part of being an adult, etc, etc. All those important things about maturity and responsibility and change. But the Christmas holiday could have arrived and passed with barely a blip on my radar this year. That saddens me more than I care to consider.